(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 rose on Thursday after a reading on manufacturing activity hit a four-year high, more than offsetting other soft data and weak results from Wal-Mart. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.64 percent at 16,143.82, the S&P 500 was up 0.64 percent at 1,840.42 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.77 percent at 4,270.36.
** FACEBOOK INC, $69.601, +2.26 pct
** BLACKBERRY LTD, $9.45, +4.88 pct
Facebook’s purchase of fast-growing messaging startup WhatsApp for an eye-popping $19 billion largely won approval from analysts, who 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, $73.59, -1.68 pct
The struggles of the low-income U.S. consumer are playing out in Wal-Mart Stores’ grocery aisles. The world’s largest retailer, which gets more than half its sales from groceries gave a disappointing full-year forecast. It blamed sharp cuts in food stamp benefits and higher payroll taxes that are will hit disposable income for its core customers.
For a graphic on earnings, (link.reuters.com/gup96v)
Stock vs S&P, (link.reuters.com/guw84v)
** TESLA MOTORS INC, $210.144, +8.52 pct
** KANDI TECHNOLOGIES GROUP INC, $13.7415, +2.93 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.
Tesla has had “conversations” with Apple Inc, Chief Executive Elon Musk confirmed to Bloomberg TV on Thursday, but he would not comment on whether those talks revolved around acquisitions.
Shares of the Chinese electric vehicle maker, Kandi, also rose.
** APPLE INC, $531.18, -1.15 pct
Barclays downgraded the stock to “equalweight” from “overweight” on Thursday, saying that the company’s shares may stick close to a trading range for the next year given a maturing smartphone market.
“We just couldn’t quite bring ourselves to use smart watches or TVs as reasons to raise numbers - nor were we fully convinced that these products could move the needle like new categories did in the old days,” analysts at Barclays said in a note to clients.
“Apple could even see margin pressures as it adds advanced new features to new iPhones at similar price points later this year and into next.”
** SAFEWAY INC, $35.27, +1.91 pct
** BLACKHAWK NETWORK HOLDINGS INC, $22.25, -20.76 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.
** MICROVISION INC, $2.79, +106.67 pct
Sony Corp said it was developing a module for a hand-held projector to project images from mobile devices using Microvision's technology. (link.reuters.com/qeq96v)
** AMERICAN RAILCAR INDUSTRIES INC, $57.72, +15.51 pct
The railcar maker reported fourth-quarter profit above analysts’ estimates as lower costs more than offset a drop in revenue.
* FRESH MARKET INC, $31.79, -7.51 pct
Deutsche Bank cut the gourmet supermarket chain’s stock to “hold” from “buy”. The brokerage also cut its price target on the stock to $34 from $48.
** DANA HOLDING CORP, $21.19, +5.27 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, $8.31, -40.04 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, $17.2, +15.28 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, $35.07, -37.15 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.
** PEPSICO INC, $78.23, +1.47 pct
Activist Investor Nelson Peltz renewed his crusade to convince PepsiCo to spin off its slow-growing beverage business from its flourishing snacks division, less than a week after the company poured cold water on the idea.
** CONAGRA FOODS INC, $28.62, -1.11 pct
A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived a lawsuit against over the amount of sodium the company discloses on sunflower seed packages.
** SEANERGY MARITIME HOLDINGS CORP, $1.9001, +20.12 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)
** BIOLASE INC, $3.1, +9.54 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, $23.17, +15.85 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.
** GOODRICH PETROLEUM CORP, $12.41, -18.84 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.
** APPLIED OPTOELECTRONICS, $18.02, +19.97 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.
** PORTFOLIO RECOVERY ASSOCIATES INC, $60.09, +19.04 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.
** EMPLOYERS HOLDINGS INC, Wednesday close $24.29, -18.07 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.”
** AVG TECHNOLOGIES, $20.86, +20.51 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.
** MILLENNIAL MEDIA INC, $6.21, -13.75 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.
** HOMEAWAY INC, $47.91, +11.52 pct
The vacation rental company reported fourth-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates due to a rise in paid listings.
** MARCHEX INC, $11.7, +22.00 pct
The mobile advertising platform operator reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue on Wednesday as it added more clients.
RBC raised its price target on the stock to $13 from $11.
** YANDEX NV, $36.96, -7.21 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.
Additionally, Yandex may seek to list its shares in Moscow to add to primary listings in London and New York.
** PENN VIRGINIA CORP, $14.17, +9.76 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, $57.6501, +7.82 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.
** RUBICON TECHNOLOGY INC, $12.24, +13.33 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.
** DEALERTRACK TECHNOLOGIES INC, $53.91, +15.29 pct
The company, which makes software for automotive retail industry, forecast 2014 full-year results above analysts’ estimates on Wednesday.
The forecast prompted Barclays to raise its target price on the stock to $47 from $43.
** INFOBLOX INC, $21.1, +9.95 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, $36.85, -5.05 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, $34.66, +7.98 pct
The energy infrastructure company reported a higher-than-expected profit for the fourth quarter, helped by higher demand for its emergency restoration services. The company also forecast first-quarter adjusted earnings of 41-43 cents per share from continuing operations, above the average analyst estimate of 36 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** FTI CONSULTING INC, $30.99, -15.07 pct
The business advisory firm forecast first-quarter adjusted earnings between 20 cents and 28 cents per share on revenue of $410 million to $425 million. Analysts on an average were expecting earnings of 57 cents per share on revenue of $419.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** VODAFONE GROUP PLC, $38.76, +3.83 pct
Citi raised its price target to 290 pence from 260 pence to reflect the 6-for-11 reverse stock split and the Verizon Communications’ buyout of Vodafone from their joint venture. “We expect the business to regain momentum ...in time we see price pressure in Europe easing as tariff plan migration and regulatory drags run their course,” analyst Simon Weeden wrote in a note.
** PDC ENERGY INC, $56.94, +7.43 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.
** GOL LINHAS AEREAS INTELIGENTES SA, $4.88, +7.25 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.
** TRANSALTA CORP, $12.3, -8.21 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.
** CRYOLIFE INC, $9.39, -12.81 pct
The medical device maker posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit and forecast full-year 2014 revenue below Street estimates.
** NABORS INDUSTRIES LTD, $21.9, +3.55 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.
** AVIS BUDGET GROUP INC, $43.4901, +8.73 pct
** HERTZ GLOBAL HOLDINGS INC, $26.99, +4.57 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.
** CYTOKINETICS INC, $9.32, -5.38 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.
** BIOMARIN PHARMACEUTICAL, $79.926, +4.68 pct
The drugmaker said its drug to treat a rare genetic disorder received a recommendation for marketing approval from a European Medicines Agency (EMA) committee.
The drug Vimizim, which received U.S. regulatory approval last week, is used to treat Morquio A Syndrome.
The disorder causes skeletal malformation and a variety of related lung, eye, ear and heart problems.
** WALTER ENERGY INC, $10.89, -1.54 pct
The coal miner reported a smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter loss due to cost cuts, and forecast a slight improvement in demand for metallurgical, or steel-making, coal in 2014.
** BJ’S RESTAURANTS INC, $25.7, -11.35 pct
At least two brokerages cut their price targets on the restaurant operator’s stock after the company late on Wednesday reported a 2.7 percent fall in same-restaurant sales for the fourth quarter, hurt by a colder winter in the U.S. and increased promotional activity.
** TOWN SPORTS INTERNATIONAL HOLDINGS INC, $8.766, -16.11 pct
At least two bokerages cut their ratings on the fitness club owner’s stock after it reported weaker-than-expected quarterly profit and forecast current-quarter results below analysts’ average estimate due to higher operating costs.
** DIRECTV, $75, +2.82 pct
The largest U.S. satellite TV company reported fourth-quarter results above analysts’ estimates as it made more from each subscriber in the United States, and the company authorized a $3.5 billion share repurchase program on Thursday. (by Shailaja Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)