(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. stocks were flat on Wednesday, as the latest mixed bag of corporate earnings failed to give investors confidence to push equities higher after a strong rally last year. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.16 percent at 16,387.63, the S&P 500 was up 0.11 percent at 1,845.89 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.44 percent at 4,244.558.
** APPLE INC, $552.42, +0.61 pct
Activist investor Carl Icahn lashed out against the company again on Wednesday, saying the iPhone maker was doing shareholders a “great disservice” by refusing to sharply increase its share buyback program.
The billionaire, who has urged Apple repeatedly to return more cash to shareholders, tweeted that he had bought $500 million more shares in the company in just the past two weeks, bringing his total investment to more than $3 billion.
** COACH INC, $48.94, -6.87 pct
The company said comparable sales in North America fell 13.6 percent in the final quarter of 2013, the latest sign it is losing share in the handbag market to fast-growing rivals such as Michael Kors Holdings Ltd and kate spade.
** QUALITY SYSTEMS, $18.19, -2.73 pct
Brokerage ISI Group cut its rating on the healthcare IT company’s stock to “cautious” from “neutral,” saying it expected further declines in software sales. The brokerage also cited Quality Systems’ lack of traction with recent initiatives to improve growth elsewhere in the business as a reason for the downgrade.
** TITAN INTERNATIONAL INC, $19.24, +2.23 pct
MHR Fund Management LLC had a 10.9 percent stake in the wheels and tires manufacturer as of Jan. 9, according to a filing on Tuesday. MHR said it believed Titan's shares were undervalued and it would hold talks with the company's management. (r.reuters.com/wag36v)
** IAMGOLD CORP, $3.7, -9.76 pct
Canaccord Genuity analysts downgraded the Canadian gold miner’s stock to “hold” from “buy,” saying the company’s fourth-quarter production came in “well below” their estimate on Tuesday. The analysts also raised concerns about the company’s 2014 cash cost forecast of $825-$875 per ounce, which is about 8 percent higher than their forecast.
** LUNA INNOVATIONS INC, $2.67, +102.27 pct
The company said it would sell its shape-sensing technology for medical applications to Intuitive Surgical Inc in a deal valued at up to $30 million. Luna makes fiber optic test and measurement products and instrumentation products.
Under the deal, Luna will receive $12 million upfront in two tranches and up to $18 million more depending on certain technical milestones and commercial measures.
** PENN WEST PETROLEUM LTD, $7.37, -10.45 pct
Dundee Capital cut its price target on Penn West’s stock to C$8.85 from C$9.50 after the Canadian oil company said on Tuesday that it expected lower output in 2014 as it sells or shuts wells.
** ARCOS DORADOS HOLDINGS INC, $10.3, -4.72 pct
J.P. Morgan Securities cut its rating on the stock of the Argentina-based franchisee of McDonald’s Corp to “neutral” from “overweight,” slashing its price target on the stock to $11 from $14.
** PETMED EXPRESS INC, $13.41, -6.68 pct
The pet pharmacy operator reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue.
The company posted sales of $50.1 million for the third quarter, below the average analyst estimate of $52.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** NORTH VALLEY BANCORP, $24.58, +28.36 pct
** TRICO BANCSHARES, $26.84, -4.31 pct
Trico Bancshares said it would buy North Valley Bancorp in an all-stock deal valued at about $180 million. North Valley Bancorp shareholders will receive 0.9433 shares of Trico common stock for each share they own, the companies said on Tuesday.
The deal values North Valley Bancorp at about $26.5 per share, representing a 38 percent premium to the stock’s Tuesday close.
** KERYX BIOPHARMACEUTICALS INC, $14.59, -5.14 pct
The company said it commenced a $90 million offering of shares of its common stock. Keryx said it planned to use the proceeds of the stock sale to fund the commercial launch of its kidney disease drug, Zerenex.
** ULTRA PETROLEUM CORP, $23.06, +4.96 pct
U.S. natural gas futures and next-day prices hit record highs on Wednesday as frigid temperatures continued to bolster heating demand in key consuming regions. Front-month natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 3.5 percent at 9:47 a.m. EST.
** THERMOGENESIS CORP, $2.97, +29.13 pct
The medical devices company and its partner TotipotentRX Corp said an early-stage trial testing Totipotent’s limb ischemia treatment met the main safety and efficacy goals.
The stem cell-based therapy showed statistically significant improvement in five areas including major amputation free survival rates, improved walking distance, open wound healing and generation of new blood vessels in the treated leg.
** IBM CORP, $181.99, -3.42 pct
The world’s biggest technology services company missed revenue expectations for the fourth consecutive quarter as it grappled with weakening demand for its servers and storage equipment, particularly in growth markets like China.
** FREEPORT MCMORAN COPPER & GOLD INC, $34.65, -1.73 pct
The miner said it was working to “defend its rights” in Indonesia in the face of a new export tax it said contravened its agreement with the government, as it reported a drop in fourth-quarter earnings.
** ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES INC, $3.73, -10.55 pct
The chipmaker forecast a steeper-than-expected fall in current-quarter revenue, prompting at least two brokerages to lower their price targets on its stock.
** EVOKE PHARMA INC, $12.45, +24.50 pct
The drugmaker said its inhaled version of a generic gastrointestinal drug was found to be superior in managing symptoms of a bowel disease compared with the existing oral treatment.
** DRAGONWAVE INC, $1.76, +10.69 pct
The telecom network equipment maker said it won a contract to provide microwave radio systems to in-flight internet provider Gogo Inc.
DragonWave’s radios will help link Gogo’s remote tower locations to a wired network.
** SUPER MICRO COMPUTER INC, $22.91, +23.84 pct
Needham raised its price target on the server maker’s stock to $23 from $16 after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday and forecast current-quarter profit and revenue above analysts’ estimates.
** JUST ENERGY GROUP INC, $7.09, -8.04 pct
The natural gas and electricity retailer said it would raise $150 million through a convertible bond offering. The company set the initial conversion price for the offering at $9.38 per share, representing a premium of about 22 percent to the stock’s Tuesday close. Just Energy will use the proceeds to repay debt.
** YRC WORLDWIDE INC, $17.82, +1.54 pct
Leaders of the Teamsters union agreed to put to vote a revised labor contract from the company, setting the stage for the struggling trucking company to go ahead with a vital restructuring plan.
** INTERCEPT PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $341.1, +4.60 pct
Wedbush analyst Liana Moussatos raised her price target on the drug developer’s stock to $449 from $72, citing its lead drug’s consistent efficacy and potential for blockbuster peak sales. The drug is being developed to treat a form of liver inflammation.
Intercept had said on Jan 9. that its drug, obeticholic acid, was found effective in a trial in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, paving the way for it to become the first approved treatment for the chronic condition.
** ENDEAVOUR INTERNATIONAL CORP, $7.03, +3.08 pct
Analysts at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey raised their rating on the oil and gas producer’s stock to “buy” from “neutral,” citing a possible debt refinance, initial production from a well in Rochelle prospect and an exploration optionality at Rossini prospect in the UK North Sea.
** NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORP, $92.57, +4.35 pct
The company posted a 24 percent rise in quarterly income, beating analysts’ estimates, as demand for shipments like chemicals, construction materials and automobiles more than offset a dip in coal volumes.
** BRINKER INTERNATIONAL INC, $49.09, +5.14 pct
The company’s shares hit their life-high after it reported a better-than-expected 7 percent rise in quarterly profit as same-restaurant sales at its Chili’s chain rose for the first time in a year.
** W&T OFFSHORE INC, $15.64, +5.46 pct
Analysts at Capital One Securities raised their rating on the offshore oil and gas producer’s stock to “equal weight” from “underweight,” saying the company’s Gulf of Mexico operations will not be immediately affected by the federal government’s temporary ban on bidding for contracts in the region. W&T Offshore said last week that it was hopeful about a resolution in the near term.
** TEXTRON INC, $38.01, +5.29 pct
The maker of Cessna aircraft and Bell helicopters said it expected revenue at its flagship business jet unit to rise 19 percent in 2014, driven mostly by deliveries of two new aircraft launched late last year.
** ABBOTT LABORATORIES INC, $38.26, -2.20 pct
The company reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, hurt by disappointing sales of its generic medicines and the lingering impact of an overseas recall of its baby formulas last summer.
** TE CONNECTIVITY LTD, $60.26, +7.03 pct
The maker of switches, sensors and connectors reported first-quarter results that beat analysts’ estimates as orders rose 8 percent.
The company also forecast revenue of $13.8 billion-$14.2 billion and a profit of $3.65-$3.85 per share for 2014. Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $3.67 on revenue of $13.9 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS INC, $64.62, -3.71 pct
The company, which makes walkie-talkies, rugged mobile computers and tablets, forecast a steep drop in first-quarter sales. The company reported a slight rise in quarterly profit, helped by higher government sales.
** VISIONCHINA MEDIA INC, $31.15, +28.77 pct
** BAIDU INC, $175, +1.33 pct
Chinese outdoor digital advertising company VisionChina Media said it signed a deal to promote Baidu online gaming unit in China.
** INTERACTIVE BROKERS GROUP INC, $22.24, -1.59 pct
The electronic broker’s fourth-quarter results were below analysts’ estimates, mainly due to a 62 percent fall in pre-tax income in its market making segment. The company posted net income of 7 cents per share on revenue of $262.9 million. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 19 cents per share on revenue of $285.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** SOUTHWESTERN ENERGY CO, $42, +4.14 pct
Analysts at Sterne Agee raised their rating on the oil and gas producer’s stock to “buy” from “neutral,” citing improvement in gas prices. Analysts said Southwestern’s progress toward LNG exports in 2015-16 and increase in gas exports to Mexico by 2015 would help raise its gas volumes.
** HURON CONSULTING GROUP, $68.67, +9.42 pct
The consulting company said it expected full-year earnings to top the high end of its forecast due to higher-than-expected performance-based fees in the healthcare segment. The company said it expected to earn $2.88-$2.92 per share from continuing operations.
** CONSOL ENERGY INC, $38.78, +1.57 pct
The company, which wants to transform into an exploration and production (E&P) company with a coal unit, said it expected to double the size of its E&P operations by 2016. The natural gas and coal producer named Timothy Dugan as chief operating officer of its E&P business.
** VMWARE INC, $99.23, +1.92 pct
The cloud software maker said it would buy mobile security company AirWatch for about $1.18 billion in cash and about $365 million in installment payments and assumed unvested equity.
** AMAG PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $20.45, -6.45 pct
The drugmaker said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected its application for wider use of its iron deficiency drug due to safety concerns and asked for more trial data.
** PARKER HANNIFIN CORP, $122.45, -3.45 pct
The maker of motion and control technologies reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates as orders rose 5 percent.
However, the company forecast 2014 earnings of $6.40 per share. Analysts on average were expecting $6.57 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** CREE INC, $66.92, +6.51 pct
The LED maker reported a 75 percent rise in second-quarter profit, driven by higher sales in its lighting products business. Net income rose to $35.7 million, or 29 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 29 from $20.4 million, or 18 cents per share, a year earlier.
** ABB LTD, $25.67, -3.79 pct
The Swiss engineering group told investors it would miss fourth-quarter profit expectations due to weak orders at its power division and delays on wind projects in the North Sea.
** BLACKBERRY LTD, $10.705, +7.80 pct
The smartphone maker said on Tuesday it intended to divest the majority of its real estate holdings in Canada, as it seeks to bolster its balance sheet and turn around its fortunes.
** NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS INC, $16.135, +8.36 pct
The company, whose software powers the Siri feature on Apple Inc’s iPhones, raised its estimates for first-quarter adjusted revenue and earnings on Tuesday.
** NEKTAR THERAPEUTICS, $13.29, -1.63 pct
The company said it commenced a public offering of 8.5 million shares of its common stock. Nektar said it would use part of the proceeds of the stock sale to fund research and development. (Compiled by Neha Dimri in Bangalore; Edited by Kirti Pandey)