(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 little changed on Thursday as comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen failed to provide clarity on the impact of a harsh winter on recent economic weakness, while concerns rose over turmoil in Ukraine. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.45 percent at 16,271.33, the S&P 500 was up 0.47 percent at 1,853.88 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.68 percent at 4,321.07.
** PACIFIC ETHANOL INC $14.04, +55.48 pct
** BIOFUEL ENERGY CORP $3.3, +74.60 pct
Pacific Ethanol, which sells ethanol to energy companies who blend it into gasoline, reported a fourth-quarter profit compared with a loss a year earlier, driven by increased sales. The company also said that it plans to restart its Madera ethanol plant in California.
Shares of smaller rival BioFuel Energy also rose on the news.
** J.C. PENNEY CO INC, $7.37, +23.66 pct
After two years of massive losses, the retailer reported improved sales and profit margins for the holiday season quarter and said it expects to make further strides this year.
At least two brokerages raised their price targets on the company’s stock.
** INTELIQUENT INC, $14.2099, +19.01 pct
The provider of voice and data services to carriers reported fourth-quarter results that beat Wall Street estimates, helped by higher voice revenue and cost cuts. The company also forecast 2014 revenue above the average analyst estimate.
** SWIFT ENERGY CO, $9.94, -16.05 pct
The oil and gas producer reported an 8 percent drop in fourth-quarter revenue due to lower oil production volumes coupled with a dip in oil prices.
** E-COMMERCE CHINA DANGDANG INC, $12.545, +25.83 pct
The Chinese e-commerce company returned to profitability and its fourth-quarter revenue beat Wall Street estimates, helped by higher product and media sales and margin growth.
The company expects first-quarter revenue to grow by 30 percent.
** COASTAL CONTACTS INC, $11.21, +19.38 pct
Essilor International will buy the digital retailer of eyeglasses and contact lenses for C$430 million ($388.2 million), Coastal said on Thursday.
** GRAFTECH INTERNATIONAL LTD, $10.559, +11.38 pct
The company said 2014 profit in its core industrial materials business will be boosted by higher prices of its graphite electrodes, used in steel making furnaces, as global steel demand is forecast to grow. Results this year will also be helped by gains from a string of cost-cutting measures taken by the company in 2013.
** NOAH HOLDINGS LTD, $16.827, +12.93 pct
The Chinese wealth management company’s fourth-quarter profit more than doubled as it earned higher commissions and service fees. Revenue rose 81 percent, to $48 million, for the quarter ended Dec.31.
** USEC INC, $5.69, +10.70 pct
** URANIUM RESOURCE INC, $3.23, +6.60 pct
Shares of uranium companies continued to rally on optimism about Japan’s plan to re-start nuclear reactors, boosted by the release of its draft energy plan earlier this week and the government’s continued promotion of nuclear power.
** ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND, $10.99, -6.31 pct
The bank said a vote for an independent Scotland would probably significantly hit its credit ratings, impacting its costs.
** ROUNDY‘S INC, $6.06, -10.22 pct
The U.S. supermarket chain, on Wednesday, forecast current-quarter adjusted profit below the average analyst estimate.
“Core Wisconsin, Minnesota store base continues to struggle due to excess capacity and a highly promotional environment,” Jefferies analyst Mark Wiltamuth said, after cutting his price target on the company’s stock to $7.25 from $8.
** SUCAMPO PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $9.48, +12.99 pct
The drugmaker reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, helped by higher sales of its only approved drug, Amitiza, used for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation in adults.
** EPL OIL & GAS INC, $30.583, -1.76 pct
The oil and gas producer reported a fourth-quarter profit that missed the average analyst estimate, as crude oil selling prices fell during the quarter compared with the previous year.
** FRONTLINE LTD, $4.26, -1.84 pct
The tanker operator reported a net fourth-quarter loss of $13.0 million and said it would not be paying a dividend to its shareholders for the quarter ended Dec. 31.
** WALTER INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT CORP, $25.37, -10.29 pct
The investment management company reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit due to higher expenses.
** CHINA MING YANG WIND POWER GROUP LTD, $3.25, +16.07 pct
China's National Energy Administration said on-grid wind power generation capacity in the country would hit 90 million kilowatts (kw) at the end of 2014, from 77.16 million kw in 2013, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. The new capacity will bring about 175 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, the agency reported. (link.reuters.com/cub37v)
China Ming Yang Wind Power Group makes wind turbines in China.
** YRC WORLDWIDE INC, $25.95, +14.67 pct
The trucking company reported fourth-quarter results that beat Wall Street estimates as operating revenue in its regional transportation business rose 10 percent.
** BIOTELEMETRY INC, $11.2196, +13.90 pct
The medical technology company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results due to a rise in revenue from patient services, helped by higher overall patient volume.
** CATAMARAN CORP, $45.84, -11.52 pct
The pharmacy benefit manager forecast full-year profit below the average analyst estimate, which analysts said was probably due to lower margins.
** GAIN CAPITAL HOLDINGS INC, $10.01, +10.00 pct
The online forex trader reported a stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter profit driven by higher trading revenue from its retail OTC unit, which more than doubled to $61.4 million for the quarter ended Dec.31.
** VITACOST.COM INC, $7.39, +9.64 pct
The online retailer of health and wellness products said on Thursday that it is evaluating a possible sale of the company and other strategic options.
** KALOBIOS PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $3.35, +6.69 pct
JMP Securities initiated coverage on the drugmaker’s stock with a “market outperform” rating and a price target of $8, saying the company’s experimental drugs, KB001-A and KB004, can “individually produce value-driving milestones within the next 12 months.”
KB001-A is being studied as a potential treatment for a lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients, while KB004 is being studied as a treatment for hematologic cancer and solid tumors.
** BIOSCRIP INC, $7.555, -10.49 pct
The infused-drugs provider swung to a loss in the fourth quarter. BioScrip posted an adjusted loss of 2 cents a share, missing the average analyst estimate of a profit of 2 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** LKQ CORPORATION, $27.002, -7.11 pct
The vehicle parts supplier reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and forecast full-year profit largely below the average analyst estimate due to a 22.4 percent rise in selling and general administrative expenses to $160.4 million.
** DYAX CORP, $10.1, -6.65 pct
Leerink analyst Joseph P. Schwartz downgraded his rating the biotechnology company’s stock to “market perform” from “outperform,” saying that even though the company has a promising pipeline, the foreseeable prospects for each compound are incorporated into its current stock price.
** JUST ENERGY GROUP INC, $7.62, -4.51 pct
The natural gas and electricity retailer said late on Wednesday that Chief Executive Ken Hartwick had resigned, effective April 1, citing personal reasons. Deborah Merril, executive vice president of Just Energy’s commercial business, and Chief Operating Officer James Lewis will take over as co-chief executive officers.
** BREITBURN ENERGY PARTNERS L.P., $20.1, -4.65 pct
The oil and gas producer posted a bigger fourth-quarter loss, due to lower oil prices and a rise in operating costs.
** PCM INC, $9.51, -3.45 pct
The multi-channel retailer, which sells computers, software and other electronics online, reported a 22 percent drop in net income from a year earlier, saying it was hurt by a “significant and unanticipated” shortage of Apple Inc’s products and by weakness in federal government spending.
PCM Inc sells products belonging to Apple, Cisco Systems Inc , Lenovo Group Ltd and Microsoft Corp , among others.
** MEDASSETS INC, $25.18, +14.09 pct
At least two brokerages raised their price targets on the company’s stock, after the provider of clinical and revenue cycle management services to healthcare companies reported a fourth-quarter adjusted profit that beat the average analyst estimate.
The company also announced the repurchase of up to $75 million of its common stock over the next 12 months.
** THE BABCOCK & WILCOX CO, $34.4, -2.08 pct
The maker of naval nuclear parts, late on Wednesday, reported a 7.2 percent fall in fourth-quarter revenue and forecast full-year 2014 results largely below the average analyst estimate. The company also increased its share repurchase authorization by $250 million to $750 million.
** EBAY INC, $58.5602, +2.13 pct
The online retailer’s founder and chairman, Pierre Omidyar, rejected investor Carl Icahn’s call to separate the company’s fast-growing PayPal payments unit, saying the businesses were better off together.
Icahn challenged eBay executives to a public debate after accusing two company directors of conflicts of interest earlier this week.
** NEKTAR THERAPEUTICS, $12.88, -5.99 pct
Brokerage MKM Partners downgraded its rating on the drugmaker’s stock to “neutral” from “buy,” citing regulatory risks to Nektar’s experimental treatment for opioid-induced constipation, scheduled to be reviewed by regulators on Sept 16. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is yet to decide whether Nektar’s naloxegol program requires a pre-approval cardiovascular trial and the drug has not yet gained approval in the European Union.
** CHIQUITA BRANDS INTERNATIONAL INC, $11.57, -1.11 pct
The banana producer reported a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss, hurt by low seasonal prices for the excess supply of bananas sold in trading markets and increased raw product costs caused by adverse growing conditions.
** TRANSOCEAN LTD, Wednesday close $43.01, -2.19 pct premarket
The owner of the world’s largest offshore drilling fleet said on Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profit fell 49 percent from a year ago, hurt by lower rig utilization.
The company’s net profit attributable to controlling interest fell to $233 million, or 64 cents per share, from $456 million, or $1.26 per share, a year earlier.
** SINOVAC BIOTECH LTD, $6.74, +2.74 pct
The China-based company said “The New England Journal of Medicine” published the late-stage results of its experimental vaccine that met its goal of preventing hand, foot and mouth disease in infants between the ages of 6 and 35 months.
** QUESTCOR PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $66.5, -10.39 pct
The company’s shares fell after well-known short-seller Citron Research alleged that its drug, Acthar, faced a risk of being pulled off the market by the U.S. health regulator.
Citron said that vials of the drug it had tested showed that the drug had little or none of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, calling into question Questcor's manufacturing practices and raising health and safety concerns. (link.reuters.com/dub37v)
Oppenheimer & Co analyst Akiva Felt said the muted reaction of the stock to the news reflected investor fatigue at the report from Citron, which has been publishing negative reports on Questcor since 2011.
“The FDA would be unlikely to pull a drug unless there were serious safety concerns involved,” he told Reuters.
Questcor executives were not immediately available for comment.
** VONAGE HOLDINGS CORP, $4.79, +5.97 pct
Northland Securities'checks indicate that T-Mobile US Inc will resell the Internet phone company's business Voice over Internet Protocol services under its own brand, Seeking Alpha reported. (r.reuters.com/syb37v)
** BEST BUY CO INC, $26.355, +2.07 pct
The retailer reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday on lower expenses and said it was running ahead of plan in terms of cutting costs.
For graphic on Best Buy earnings (link.reuters.com/wuz27v)
** NOODLES & CO, $36.98, -6.50 pct
The restaurant operator, on Wednesday, reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter results, blaming the unusually cold winter in the United States, which it also said would hurt results in the current quarter.
At least three brokerages cut their price targets on the company’s stock on Thursday.
** CAREER EDUCATION CO, $7.79, +16.79 pct
The for-profit education company reported fourth-quarter results that beat the average analyst estimate as student enrollment rose at three of its schools.
** ITT EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, $31.2, -3.70 pct
The U.S. consumer bureau sued the for-profit college chain on Wednesday, accusing it of pushing students into high-cost private loans that were likely to end in default. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it is seeking restitution for victims, a civil fine, and an injunction against the company.
** CAMPUS CREST COMMUNITIES INC, $8.34, -10.61 pct
The real estate investment trust which operates student housing properties forecast adjusted funds from operations for 2014 well below the average analyst estimate.
Robert W. Baird downgraded the company’s stock to “neutral” from “outperform.”
** CEDAR REALTY TRUST, $5.97, -3.86 pct
Brokerage Wunderlich Securities downgraded the real estate investment trust’s stock to “hold” from “buy,” theflyonthewall.com reported.
** REPUBLIC AIRWAYS HOLDINGS INC, $9.68, +10.13 pct
The airliner reported better-than-expected quarterly revenue and said available seat miles (ASMs) rose 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
Republic Airways also said it took deliveries of 10 E175 aircraft related to its American Airlines E175 fixed-fee agreement in the fourth quarter.
** AMERISAFE INC, $44, +11.65 pct
The insurer reported a stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, driven by a 10.1 percent increase in net premiums earned in the quarter ended Dec.31.
** DELEK US HOLDINGS INC, $28.65, -5.73 pct
The U.S. refiner reported a surprise fourth-quarter loss, hurt by higher costs related to administrative expenses and turnaround of its refineries.
** HALCON RESOURCES CORP, $3.69, -4.40 pct
The oil and gas producer reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter adjusted profit on Wednesday, due to a pre-tax impairment charge of about $239 million and a 1,220 barrels of oil equivalent per day negative impact related to adverse weather conditions during the quarter ended Dec. 31. [D:nGNXUZXQOa]
** NUTRISYSTEM INC, $15.06, -10.46 pct
The weight management company, on Wednesday, forecast a surprise current-quarter loss as it expects a new promotion to hit gross margins.
The company said it expects a loss of 2-7 cents per share. Analysts, on average, were expecting a profit of 13 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
** AUTODESK INC, $55.63, +1.66 pct
The software designer’s fourth-quarter revenue beat Street consensus estimates, helped by higher subscription revenue from its AutoCAD and Revit software used by designers, architects and engineers.
The company also forecast first-quarter and full-year revenue above the average analyst estimate, on expectations of higher billing revenue and margin growth.
** SOLAZYME INC, $12.54, +6.18 pct
The renewable oil producer said on Wednesday that it had started shipping multiple products from its Clinton and Iowa units and was commissioning its new Brazil facility. Solazyme uses micro-algae to convert low cost plant sugars into high value renewable oils and bioproducts.
Analysts at Cowen and Co raised their price target on the company’s stock to $17 from $14.
** BAIDU INC, $179.53, +3.83 pct
The Chinese web-search provider on Wednesday posted fourth-quarter revenue that beat Wall Street expectations due to a rise in revenue from its mobile business. The company also forecast first-quarter revenue above the average analyst estimate.
At least two brokerages raised their price targets on Baidu’s stock.
** WHITING PETROLEUM CORP, $68.23, +8.51 pct
The oil and natural gas producer met Wall Street expectations, but posted a fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday, saying its exploration, production and interest costs had spiked.
** CHICO‘S FAS INC, $16.74, -7.00 pct
The women’s apparel and accessories retailer reported fourth-quarter results below consensus estimates, hurt by a 3.4 percent decline in comparable store sales and a weaker gross margin due to heavy discounting.
** SEARS HOLDINGS CORP, $43.89, +8.64 pct
The retailer, on Thursday, reported a big loss and sales decline in a “tough-to-terrible” holiday quarter, but said it was making progress in generating more of its sales through a loyalty program it was betting its future on.
** VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INTERNATIONAL INC, $149.1, +1.89 pct
The largest listed drugmaker in Canada swung to a fourth-quarter profit, driven by the acquisition of contact lens maker Bausch & Lomb Holdings Inc.
** TIVO INC, $13.61, +6.08 pct
The digital video recorder maker reported a better-than-expected 20 percent rise in fourth-quarter revenue and said it expects to benefit from Comcast Corp’s $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. [ID:nL3N0LV50S}
** WESTERN REFINING INC, $37.82, -3.45 pct
The company reported a fourth-quarter loss as the cost of the crude oil it processes rose from the year-earlier period when it posted a profit.
** TRINA SOLAR LTD, $16.2, +8.07 pct
The Chinese solar panel maker said it had signed a contract with Fresh Fruits Co, a food storage and logistics company in Jordan, for a 2 megawatt rooftop solar power plant.
** TRANSOCEAN LTD, $42.05, -2.23 pct
The owner of the world’s largest offshore drilling fleet said it could take up to 18 to 24 months for demand to recover as customers delay drilling programs.
** AMC NETWORKS INC, $73.05, +4.94 pct
The cable TV network reported a 19 percent jump in quarterly revenue that handily beat Street estimates, helped by the popularity of “The Walking Dead.”
The fourth season of “The Walking Dead” was a hit, attracting 12.1 million viewers to its mid-season finale in December.
** PACIRA PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $80.75, +3.46 pct
The drugmaker said a late-stage study showed its painkiller, Exparel, significantly reduced pain for a wider range of patients after surgery.
Compiled by Shailaja Sharma in Bangalore, Editing by Simon Jennings