(For more market insights, including options activity, click on ; for the Day Ahead newsletter link.reuters.com/mex49s; for the Morning News Call newsletter, link.reuters.com/nex49s) U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Friday, after data showed the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in almost two years in the third quarter. S&P 500 futures rose 2.9 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 5 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 18 points.
** BLACKBERRY LTD, Thursday close $6.25, +2.40 pct premarket
The smartphone maker said it had agreed to a five-year partnership with Foxconn Technology Co Ltd to develop and manufacture a handset for Indonesia as well as other fast-growing markets.
** WALGREEN CO, Thursday close $56.94, -2.53 pct premarket
The largest U.S. drugstore operator reported higher quarterly sales, but an increase in promotions and a slowdown in the introduction of higher-profit generic drugs cut into its gross profit margin.
** MIMEDX GROUP INC, Thursday close $7.75, +2.06 pct premarket
Canaccord Genuity raised its price target on the company’s stock to $12 from $8, citing the opportunity arising from MiMedx’s distribution agreement with Medtronic Inc signed in October.
The brokerage also said MiMedx, which sells human-tissue derived products to help in wound care and spine repair, was one of its top growth picks for 2014.
** EXELIXIS INC, Thursday close $5.8, -0.17 pct premarket
The company said on Thursday that an European committee recommended the approval of its experimental drug, Cometriq, to treat a type of advanced thyroid cancer in Europe.
Cometriq is already approved for the same condition in the United States, Exelixis said.
** CARMAX INC, Thursday close $53.05, -5.28 pct premarket
The largest U.S. used car retailer reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit and said credit terms tightened late in the third quarter. Easier lending standards encouraged people to buy more cars this year.
** CARNIVAL CORP, Thursday close $38.05, +3.52 pct premarket
At least two brokerages raised their ratings on the cruise operator’s stock after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly results and said revenue yields, which blend ticket sales and money spent onboard, fell 2.1 percent in the quarter instead of the 3-4 percent drop estimated earlier.
UBS upgraded the stock to “buy” from “neutral,” while Credit Suisse raised its rating to “outperform” from “neutral.”
** NAVISTAR INTERNATIONAL CORP, Thursday close $39.46, -4.97 pct premarket
The truck and engine maker reported a 13.5 percent drop in quarterly sales, hurt by weak demand across businesses and market share losses as it moves to a new emission technology.
** CHIMERA INVESTMENT CORP, Thursday close $3.12, +2.24 pct premarket
The real estate investment trust declared a special common stock cash dividend of 20 cents per share, to be paid to common shareholders on Jan. 31, 2014.
** WESTERN ASSET MORTGAGE CAPITAL CORP, Thursday close $15.92, +2.39 pct premarket
The REIT declared a fourth-quarter dividend of $2.35 for each common share, payable in a combination of cash and stock to common shareholders of record as of Dec. 30.
** FINISH LINE INC, Thursday close $26.14, +7.50 pct premarket
The footwear retailer said it now expected full-year same-store sales to grow 3-4 percent. The company had earlier estimated a low-single digit percentage rise.
Finish Line also said it expected full-year adjusted earnings to rise 9 percent to $1.60-$1.65 per share. The company had earlier estimated a mid-single-digit increase.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $1.59 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** FIRST NIAGARA FINANCIAL GROUP, Thursday close $10.22, -2.15 pct premarket
Citigroup cut its rating on the bank holding company’s stock to “sell” from “neutral,” according to Theflyonthewall.com.
** TIBCO SOFTWARE, Thursday close $24.48, -11.97 pct premarket
UBS Equities lowered its rating on the business software maker’s stock to “neutral” from “buy,” according to Theflyonthewall.com.
Susquehanna Financial Group cut its price target on Tibco’s stock, citing lower-than-expected revenue from the company’s license business in the fourth quarter and weakness in its European business.
** RED HAT INC, Thursday close $49, +13.86 pct premarket
The world’s largest commercial distributor of the Linux operating system reported third-quarter results above analysts’ estimates, helped by higher growth in billings, and it raised its full-year forecast.
** DEALERTRACK TECHNOLOGIES INC, Thursday close $42.8, +5.96 pct premarket
The company said it would buy automotive website Dealer.com from private equity firm Apax Partners in a deal valued at about $1 billion.
** AMERICAN VANGUARD CORP, Thursday close $23.53, -6.50 pct premarket
The chemical maker said it expected sales to fall 30 percent and net earnings to be flat in the fourth quarter due to adverse weather conditions in the midwestern United States. A shortened planting period in the corn and cotton markets and a reduction in planted acres resulted in surplus inventory because of reduced use of the company’s products.
** JAZZ PHARMACEUTICALS PLC, Thursday close $114.72, +8.20 pct premarket
** GENTIUM, Thursday close $55.65, +2.64 pct premarket
Ireland-based Jazz Pharmaceuticals said it would buy Italian biotech company Gentium for about $1 billion to get access to its lead product candidate, Defitelio, a drug used for the treatment of a rare liver condition.
** INTERDIGITAL INC, Thursday close $32, -10.94 pct premarket
The U.S. International Trade Commission found that Huawei Technologies, Nokia Corp and ZTE Corp did not infringe cell phone patents owned by wireless research and development company InterDigital. InterDigital had accused the companies of violating seven patents used to make 3G wireless devices.
** JONES GROUP INC, Thursday close $14.13, +4.88 pct premarket
Jones Group said on Thursday it had agreed to be bought by Sycamore Partners for $15 per share, or $1.2 billion, the latest purchase of a fashion company by the private equity firm.
** BIOCRYST PHARMACEUTICALS INC, Thursday close $6.96, +5.60 pct premarket
The company filed an application with the U.S. health regulator to market its experimental drug, Peramivir, for the treatment of acute influenza in adults. Peramivir is already in use in Japan and Korea for the condition, Biocryst said.
“BioCryst is preparing to make peramivir available in the U.S. in time for the 2014-15 influenza season, in the event approval is received in that timeframe,” Chief Executive Jon Stonehouse said in a statement.
** AMTRUST FINANCIAL SERVICES INC, Thursday close $29.51, +5.69 pct premarket
One of Amtrust’s directors, Karfunkel Leah, bought 500,000 shares of the company at $30.25 per share, the property and casualty insurer said in a regulatory filing.
** AMARIN CORP PLC, Thursday close $1.59, +22.64 pct premarket
Amarin said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has informed the company that it would delay a decision on approval of a blood fat-lowering drug for use in a broader patient population.
** MELCO CROWN ENTERTAINMENT, Thursday close $38.30, +2.30 pct after market
The company said its MCE Leisure (Philippines) Corp unit priced an offering of about $340 million of 5 percent senior notes due 2019 at 100 percent of par.
The unit plans to use the proceeds for capital expenditure and to refinance debt.
** LIBERTY MEDIA CORP, Thursday close $143.27
** CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS INC, Thursday close $129.12
** TIME WARNER CABLE INC, Thursday close $133.74
Liberty Media top executives estimate that a merger between Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable could generate roughly $700 million in annual synergies, according to people close to the matter.
** WAL-MART STORES INC, Thursday close $77.24
A final group of claimants has dropped its opposition to a $161 million proposed settlement of personal injury lawsuits tied to plastic gas containers, increasing the likelihood it will receive court approval next month. Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N, which sold the red plastic gas containers once made by Blitz USA, would contribute part of the settlement.
** ASTRAZENECA PLC, Thursday close $58.90
The drug company lost a bid on Thursday to defend its widely used heartburn drug Nexium when an appeals court ruled that a new drug from Hanmi Pharmaceuticals did not infringe on Nexium patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that Hanmi did not infringe on AstraZeneca’s patent since the South Korean company uses different salts in making its products.
** VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC, Thursday close $48.43, +0.37 pct premarket
Verizon Communications vowed to issue semi-annual reports on government requests for customer data, drawing praise from privacy advocates who sought such changes and marking the latest reform to controversial surveillance practices.
** AMERICAN EXPRESS CO, Thursday close $86.41
The company has agreed to let merchants charge extra for transactions paid with the company’s credit and charge cards, in a legal settlement that its proponents said could change consumer spending habits.
** OVERSTOCK.COM INC, Thursday close $29.10
The ecommerce site plans to be the first major United States retailer to accept the digital currency bitcoin, according to a report in the Financial Times. Overstock’s chief executive Patrick Byrne told the FT in an interview that his company could start accepting the currency next year.
** OCWEN FINANCIAL, Thursday close $54.94
U.S. officials ordered the largest nonbank mortgage servicer on Thursday to provide $2 billion in help to underwater borrowers to resolve allegations of misconduct that led to thousands of people losing their homes. Ocwen Financial must reduce loan balances for struggling homeowners and refund $125 million to foreclosed borrowers under an agreement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and officials from 49 states and the District of Columbia. (Compiled by Neha Dimri in Bangalore; Edited by Kirti Pandey)