(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 edged higher in volatile trading on Thursday, as a strong read on manufacturing offset weak results from Wal-Mart and geopolitical and economic uncertainty around the world. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.47 percent at 16,116.75, the S&P 500 was up 0.37 percent at 1,835.58 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.29 percent at 4,250.113.
** FACEBOOK INC, $66.66, -2.06 pct
** BLACKBERRY LTD, $9.52, +5.66 pct
Facebook’s purchase of fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion stunned the markets but analysts said the deal made strategic sense as it will solidify the social network’s position as a leader in mobile.
For a graphic on price paid per user, (link.reuters.com/mej96v)
The stunning bid pushed up shares of BlackBerry Ltd as investors placed bets that the smartphone maker’s own messaging platform has been undervalued.
** WAL-MART STORES INC, $73.64, -1.62 pct
The world’s largest retailer forecast a lower full-year profit than analysts expect, as fewer food stamps, higher taxes and tighter credit erode its sales. The world’s largest retailer expects net sales growth this year to be at the lower end of its forecast range of 3 to 5 percent.
For a graphic on earnings, (link.reuters.com/gup96v)
Stock vs S&P, (link.reuters.com/guw84v)
** TESLA MOTORS INC, $209.34, +8.11 pct
** KANDI TECHNOLOGIES GROUP INC, $13.65, +2.25 pct
Tesla Motors, led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Wednesday and said deliveries of its luxury Model S electric sedan would surge more than 55 percent this year.
At least three brokerages raised their target price on the company’s stock on Thursday. Jefferies & Co raised its target price to $220 from $190, while J.P. Morgan Securities raised the target price to $137 from $115. Robert W. Baird & Co raised the target price to $245 from $215.
Shares of the Chinese electric vehicle maker, Kandi, also rose.
** SAFEWAY INC, $35.99, +3.99 pct
** BLACKHAWK NETWORK HOLDINGS INC, $22.255, -20.74 pct
The second-largest U.S. mainstream grocery store operator, said on Wednesday it is in talks about a possible sale of the company. Safeway has been trying to streamline its business by selling off non-core units.
It spun off its gift card provider, Blackhawk Network Holdings, into a separate publicly traded company, selling a 19 percent stake. It also sold off its Canadian operations to Empire Co Ltd, the operator of Canadian retailer Sobeys, for $5.8 billion in cash.
Separately, Blackhawk Network reported fourth-quarter earnings of 81 cents, missing analysts’ average estimate as higher costs and marketing expenses hurt margins.
** GOL LINHAS AEREAS INTELIGENTES SA, $4.75, +4.40 pct
Air France-KLM SA will invest $100 million in the Brazilian airline as the European carrier seeks to take advantage of a potential surge in travel demand during the coming soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which will happen in Brazil.
** AMERICAN RAILCAR INDUSTRIES INC, $55.7099, +11.49 pct
The railcar maker reported fourth-quarter profit above analysts’ estimates as lower costs more than offset a drop in revenue.
** DANA HOLDING CORP, $21.27, +5.66 pct
The maker of drivetrain technologies and sealing systems reported fourth-quarter results that beat analysts’ estimates due to the strong global light-vehicle production demand in 2013. The company said it expects FY 2014 revenue to be about $6.8 billion to $6.9 billion. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $6.94 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** ONCONOVA THERAPEUTICS INC, $7.93, -42.79 pct
The company said its experimental blood disorder drug did not meet the main goal of a late-stage trial. Rigosertib, the company’s lead drug, is being studied as a potential treatment for patients with a higher risk of myelodysplastic syndromes who had not responded to prior therapy.
The company’s shares fell 45 percent in extended trading on Wednesday.
** RAPTOR PHARMACEUTICAL CORP, $16.89, +13.20 pct
The drug maker said its experimental brain disorder drug slowed the loss of muscle control in patients with Huntington’s disease after 18 months of treatment.
** CONN‘S INC, $38.1329, -31.66 pct
The electronics and home appliance retailer lost more than a third of its market value after it cut its profit forecast due to bad debts and weaker sales growth for TVs.
** PORTFOLIO RECOVERY ASSOCIATES INC, $58.72, +16.32 pct
The company said it would buy Norway’s Aktiv Kapital AS for about $880 million to expand its fee-based debt collection services in Europe. The company also reported a higher-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter profit.
** AVG TECHNOLOGIES, $19.72, +13.92 pct
The anti-virus software maker on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter revenue above analysts’ average estimate, helped by a 25 percent jump in subscription revenue and strong growth in mobiles.
** HOMEAWAY INC, $48.18, +12.15 pct
The vacation rental company reported fourth-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates due to a rise in paid listings.
** YANDEX NV, $36.17, -9.19 pct
Russia’s biggest search engine said on Thursday it expects revenues to grow by 25-30 percent this year, a slowing from the growth achieved in 2013.
** PENN VIRGINIA CORP, $13.57, +5.11 pct
The oil and gas producer on Wednesday forecast 2014 product revenues below analysts’ average estimate after reporting lower revenue in the fourth quarter due to a decline in selling prices. Product revenues, excluding the impact of any hedges, are expected to be $587 million to $630 million this year, below the average analyst estimate of $655 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** JACK IN THE BOX INC, $57.19, +6.96 pct
The San Diego-based restaurant chain on Wednesday reported first-quarter results that beat analysts’ estimates, helped by growth in same-store sales at its Jack in the Box and Qdoba Mexican Grill outlets.
Barclays Capital raised its price target on the company’s stock to $49 from $47 on Thursday.
** GOODRICH PETROLEUM CORP, $12.06, -21.12 pct
The oil and gas producer reported a larger-than-expected loss for the fourth quarter as production was hurt by drilling delays at the Tuscaloosa Marine shale field located in Louisiana and Mississippi.
** RUBICON TECHNOLOGY INC, $11.93, +10.46 pct
The company, which supplies sapphire substrates and products to the LED, semiconductor and optical markets, forecast first-quarter revenue slightly below analysts’ estimates due to a slowing LED backlighting market.
** MILLENNIAL MEDIA INC, $6.26, -13.06 pct
The company, which helps mobile app developers and advertisers to focus on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, forecast first-quarter revenue below analysts’ expectations and an adjusted core loss of $5 million to $6 million.
Evercore Partners analysts cut their price target on the stock to $9 from $10, but maintained their ‘overweight’ rating.
** INFOBLOX INC, $20.08, +4.64 pct
Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the network equipment maker’s stock to “buy” from “neutral”, according to Theflyonthewall.com.
** KAYNE ANDERSON MLP INVESTMENT CO, $36.92, -4.87 pct
The investment company priced its offering of 8 million shares at $37.05 per share, a 4.5 percent discount to the stock’s Wednesday closing price.
** QUANTA SERVICES INC, $34.44, +7.29 pct
The provider of industrial infrastructure reported fourth-quarter results that beat the average analyst estimate due to an increase in sales in its electric power business. The company also forecast FY 2014 revenue to be largely above analysts’ average estimate.
** APPLIED OPTOELECTRONICS, $17.62, +17.31 pct
Analysts at Cowen and Co highlighted the networking component maker’s stock among their favorite investment ideas, citing Google Inc’s plans to roll out the Google Fiber initiative to additional cities. The expansion, the brokerage said, could be a catalyst for increased capital expenditure in wireline networking and communications equipment in the United States.
** PDC ENERGY INC, $56.2, +6.04 pct
The oil and gas producer reported a profit in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss a year earlier, as total output jumped 58 percent, driven by production from its Wattenberg field in Colorado.
** TRANSALTA CORP, $12.01, -10.37 pct
The Canadian power company forecast full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) that missed analysts’ average estimate. Based on current estimates for power prices in Alberta and the Pacific Northwest, TransAlta expects 2014 EBITDA to be between C$1.015 billion and C$1.065 billion, below the average analyst estimate of C$1.072 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** NABORS INDUSTRIES LTD, $22, +4.02 pct
At least five brokerages raised their price targets on the U.S. oilfield services and drilling company’s stock after it reported on Tuesday an uptick in fourth-quarter margins from its international business due to lower costs to move rigs and other items. Analysts expect Nabors to do well this year, partly due to a recovery in its home market, where demand is starting to rebound as natural gas prices go up.
** SEANERGY MARITIME HOLDINGS CORP, $1.97, +24.53 pct
The drybulk company reported a quarterly profit, compared with a year-ago loss, helped by a $20.2 million gain from the sale of three vessel-owning subsidiaries.
Seanergy also said market conditions in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 were better than in the same quarter a year earlier. Time charter equivalent earnings - average daily revenue of a vessel per voyage - for the company's fleet rose by 42 percent in the quarter. (link.reuters.com/fup96v)
** AVIS BUDGET GROUP INC, $43.155, +7.89 pct
** HERTZ GLOBAL HOLDINGS INC, $26.82, +3.91 pct
Car rental company Avis reported fourth-quarter results above analysts’ estimates as an increase in rental days and its acquisition of Zipcar boosted revenue. Vehicle rental days increased 6 percent in North America. Zipcar, which Avis bought early last year, contributed 4 percent to total revenue, which rose 9 percent to $1.85 billion.
Shares of rival Hertz also rose.
** EMPLOYERS HOLDINGS INC, Wednesday close $24.29, -19.76 pct premarket
The insurer reported a fourth-quarter loss of 3 cents per share on an adjusted basis as its losses and loss adjustment expenses rose to $136.9 million from $22.8 million a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected earnings of 27 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
JMP Securities cut its rating on the company’s stock to “underperform” from “market perform.”
** CYTOKINETICS INC, $9.01, -8.53 pct
The drug developer said its common stock offering of 4.4 million shares is priced at $8.00 per share, a discount of 18 percent to the stock’s Wednesday closing. Cytokinetics will spend a part of the estimated $35 million gross proceeds on research and development.
** BIOLASE INC, $3.29, +16.25 pct
The dental laser maker said it would distribute 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys Inc’s Objet30 OrthoDesk printer, which uses dental printing materials to create aligners, retainers and surgical guides.
Biolase said it would also distribute some of Stratasys’ Design Series printers.
** BASIC ENERGY SERVICES INC, $22.7, +13.50 pct
The oilfield services provider reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss as its efforts to control costs paid off and the company said it expects first-quarter revenue to inch up 4-5 percent from the fourth quarter, partly due to increased drilling activity. (by Shailaja Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)