October 10, 2012 / 1:17 PM / 6 years ago

MARKET PULSE-Alcoa, OCZ, Avnet, Cummins, FedEx, H&R Block, True Religion

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Some U.S. stocks to watch on Wednesday:

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Index futures edged lower after Alcoa kicked off earnings season by warning of a slight slowdown in some markets, highlighting concerns about sluggish global growth, even as its quarterly results beat expectations.

S&P 500 futures were down 0.08 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average futures ahead 0.28 percent, and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.01 percent.

** ALCOA INC, Tuesday close $9.13, down 1.4 pct premarket

The aluminum maker lowered on Tuesday its aluminum consumption growth forecast to 6 percent for 2012. Nomura Equity Research lowered its target price on the stock to $9 from $12 on Wednesday to reflect continued weakness in prices and overproduction in China that could slow growth in the second half.

** OCZ TECHNOLOGY GROUP INC, Tuesday close $3.15, down 41 pct premarket

The solid-state hard drive maker said its second-quarter net loss will be “significant” and revenue will be “materially lower” than its forecast due to problems with its customer incentive programs.

** TRUE RELIGION APPAREL INC, Tuesday close $21.01, up 21 pct premarket

The denim maker said it was evaluating strategic alternatives, which could include a possible sale of the company, after receiving indications of interest from third parties.

** AVNET INC, Tuesday close $28.57. down 10.2 pct premarket

The electronic parts distributor forecast its first-quarter revenue at the lower end of its prior forecast as customers delayed spending.

** HELEN OF TROY LTD, Tuesday close $31.95, down 8 pct premarket

The consumer products maker cut its full-year 2013 profit view for the second time this year as it continues to expect a challenging sales environment. The company also reported lower-than-expected third-quarter profit.

** COSTCO WHOLESALE CORP, Tuesday close $99.64, up 2 pct premarket

The company posted a 27 percent jump in its fourth-quarter profit, as the U.S. warehouse chain’s sales continued to rise and it got a lift from higher membership fees.

** CUMMINS INC, Tuesday close $90.84, down 4 pct premarket

The U.S. engine maker lowered its 2012 forecast for the second time this year, citing delays in customer spending due to a weakening global economy, and said it would cut up to 1,500 jobs.

Several brokerages, including Jefferies & Co, Barclays Capital and Credit Suisse, cut their price targets on the stock.

** H&R BLOCK INC, Tuesday close $17.62, down 4.3 pct premarket

The U.S. tax preparer said it was exploring strategic alternatives for H&R Block Bank, which could result in the company no longer being regulated by the Federal Reserve as a savings and loan holding company.

** FEDEX CORP, Tuesday close $85.58, up 3.4 pct premarket

The company said on Tuesday that it plans to sharply cut costs at its underperforming express air freight and services divisions, seeking to improve profits at those operations by $1.7 billion over the next four years.

** YUM BRANDS INC, Tuesday close $66.04, up 2 pct premarket

The parent company of KFC raised its full-year outlook on Tuesday after sales in China held up despite cooling economic growth in that market, the restaurant company’s largest.

** AURICO GOLD INC , Tuesday close $6.42, up 1.6 pct premarket

National Bank Financial cut its price target on the company’s stock to C$7.50 from C$10.25.

** GENTIUM SPA, Tuesday close $10.55

The company said European health regulators sought further information during the review of its experimental drug for treating complications related to stem-cell transplantation, delaying the approval of the drug.

The company, which anticipated a recommendation on approval of the drug as early as the third quarter of this year, now expects a recommendation by the first quarter of 2013.

** WAL-MART STORES INC, Tuesday close $74.14

The world’s largest retailer will host its annual investor day webcast before markets open. It may provide updates about all three operating segments - Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam’s Club - as well as Global eCommerce and its overall growth plans.

** OPTIMER PHARMACEUTICALS INC, Tuesday close $10.83

The biopharmaceutical company sold its stake in its subsidiary, Optimer Biotechnology Inc, for $60 million to the unit’s current shareholders and said it will use the funds to market its diarrhea drug, Dificid.

Jefferies analyst Eun Yang said the company’s new initiative to revive the growth of Dificid was reassuring and maintained her “buy” rating on the stock.

** WABCO HOLDINGS INC, Tuesday close $59.94

Robert W. Baird & Co downgraded the company to “neutral.”

** DANAHER CORP, Tuesday close $55.43

** COOPER INDUSTRIES, Tuesday close $74.52

The companies said they will sell their hand and power tools joint venture, Apex Tool Group, to Bain Capital for about $1.6 billion.

** DARLING INTERNATIONAL INC, Tuesday close $17.55

BMO Capital Markets downgraded the company’s stock to “market perform” from “outperform” and cut its price target to $18 from $21.

** VIACOM INC, Tuesday close $56.22

Sanford C. Bernstein downgraded the stock to “underperform.”

** HOST HOTELS AND RESORTS INC, Tuesday close $15.53

The company reported third-quarter operating performance.

** BEST BUY CO INC, Tuesday close $17.84

The company’s chief financial officer, James Muehlbauer, is leaving the embattled retailer after more than a decade, the company said on Tuesday.

** MICROSOFT CORP, Tuesday close $29.28

The company’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer got a lower bonus than last year’s, partly for flat sales of Windows and his failure to ensure that the company provided a choice of browser to some European customers.

** BAXTER INTERNATIONAL INC, Tuesday close $60.48

The company gave a conservative long-term outlook on Tuesday, largely in line with analyst expectations, saying its focus on treatments for unmet medical needs would help insulate it from macroeconomic pressures.

** ESCO TECHNOLOGIES INC, Tuesday close $37.61

The engineered products maker said it will shut an Illinois plant as it looks to improve margins in its test segment and take a related $3 million charge.

Canaccord Genuity cut its price target on the company’s stock to $34 from $37.

Complied by Aditi Shrivastava in Bangalore aditi.shrivastava@thomsonreuters.com, within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5783, Reuters messaging: aditi.shrivastava.reuters.com@reuters.net

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