(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 gave up earlier gains on Friday, with major stock indexes turning modestly negative by late morning trading, as investors booked profits from advances earlier in the week. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.06 percent at 16,548.82, the S&P 500 was up 0.08 percent at 1,885.23 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.21 percent at 4,136.047.
** SKECHERS USA INC, $40.29, -4.00 pct
Sport shoes maker Skechers USA said on Friday it would explore buying a stake in the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, whose owner is at the center of a controversy over alleged racist remarks.
** MERCK & CO INC, $58.44, -1.98 pct
** ENDOCYTE INC, $6.6499, -61.74 pct
The companies said they had stopped a late-stage trial of their experimental ovarian cancer drug because it did not improve survival rates without the cancer worsening.
** LINKEDIN CORP, $151.73, -5.89 pct
The social networking company forecast 2014 revenue below Wall Street’s expectations on Thursday, underscoring concerns about its ability to sustain its rapid growth pace and leading a host of brokerages to cut their price targets on the stock.
** WYNN RESORTS LTD, $219.49, +6.22 pct
** MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL, $26.26, +3.43 pct
** MELCO CROWN ENTERTAINMENT LTD, $36.57, +6.49 pct
** LAS VEGAS SANDS CORP, $80.735, +1.75 pct
** INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY, $12.705, +0.36 pct
U.S. casino stocks rose after Macau, the world’s casino capital, raked in 31.3 billion patacas ($3.92 billion) in gambling revenue in April, thanks to strong spending by Chinese visitors keen to place their bets in the country’s only legal casino hub. Gambling revenue growth in Macau, a special administrative region like neighboring Hong Kong, was up 10.6 percent in April, beating analyst estimates of 6-8 percent growth.
Wynn Resorts also reported a first-quarter profit beat analysts’ average estimate, due to increased business in Macau.
At least four brokerages raised their price targets on the company’s stock.
** RENTECH INC, $2.315, +7.67 pct
The maker of nitrogen fertilizer and wood fiber said it had bought New England Wood Pellet (NEWP), the largest producer of wood pellets for the U.S. heating market, for $45.1 million, including debt.
Earlier, in April, Rentech said Blackstone Group’s credit arm would invest $150 million to fund growth of its wood fiber processing business.
** IMPAX LABORATORIES INC, $27.145, +2.16 pct
The specialty pharmaceutical company on Thursday reported better-than-expected first-quarter results, helped by higher sales of its generic drugs. The company also said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted a resubmitted marketing application for its experimental Parkinson’s disease drug, Rytary, and set a review date of Oct. 9.
At least three brokerages raised their price targets on Impax’s stock.
** EQUAL ENERGY LTD, $5.15, +16.25 pct
The oil and gas producer renewed its gas purchase and processing deal with a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP. The deal covers more than 90 percent of Equal’s current gas production and secures a market for the company’s planned drilling for the next seven years.
The company said on Thursday it would pay two dividends of 5 cents per common share each, as per an agreement signed with Petroflow Energy Corp. The company added that Petroflow had obtained financing commitments needed for the acquisition of Equal Energy.
** COVANCE INC, $81.27, -7.68 pct
The research services provider reported lower-than-expected first-quarter revenue, as its market access services business declined. Covance narrowed its full-year adjusted earnings range to $3.70 to $3.95 per share, from its prior view of $3.65 to $4.00 per share.
UBS lowered its price target on the company’s stock to $99 from $107.
** AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING HOLDINGS INC, $19.01, +3.77 pct
The auto parts maker reported better-than-expected first-quarter results, as sales rose 14 percent helped by higher U.S. auto production.
** CHEGG INC, $5.76, +5.30 pct
The company, whose main business is renting textbooks, reported a better-than-expected first-quarter results, due to higher revenue from its digital services.
** DIGITALGLOBE INC, $32.52, +7.90 pct
The earth imagery products and services provider on Thursday reported better-than-expected first-quarter results, helped by higher margins at its U.S. and international government businesses.
** ALON USA ENERGY INC, $17.02, +3.78 pct
Credit Suisse raised its price target on the Texas-based refiner’s stock to $22 from $20, after the company reported a better-than-expected first-quarter profit due to higher production and weaker prices for crude oil.
** DEXCOM INC, $32.48, -0.82 pct
The seller of glucose monitoring systems on Thursday reported a wider-than-expected first-quarter loss, hurt by higher non-cash expenses.
Analysts at least three brokerages, including Canaccord Genuity, cut their price targets on the company’s stock.
** WESTPORT INNOVATIONS INC, $15.51, +19.95 pct
The developer of natural gas-powered vehicle engines reported a smaller first-quarter loss and a 39 percent jump in revenue, due to high demand.
** STANDEX INTERNATIONAL CORP, $73.56, +21.77 pct
The maker of food service equipment and hydraulic products reported a 7 percent rise in third-quarter sales and said market conditions and demand trends were favorable for growth.
** STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE INC, $79.1, +4.01 pct
The hotel operator declared a special dividend of 65 cents per share, in addition to a regular dividend of 35 cents.
** COOPER TIRE & RUBBER CO, $27.48, +6.76 pct
The U.S. tire maker reported a higher-than-expected profit for the first-quarter, as unit shipments for its larger North American segment business increased 5 percent.
Cooper’s also said its total light vehicle tire shipments in the United States increased 7 percent during the quarter, compared with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) member shipments, which were up approximately 1 percent.
** INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS GROUP PLC $36.96, +7.72 pct
The multinational hotel chain said it would return $750 million to shareholders and was considering selling off more hotels. The company’s first-quarter global revenue per available room grew 6 percent, driven by growth in its North American market.
** RXI PHARMACEUTICALS CORP, $3.74, +17.98 pct
The biotechnology company said its experimental eye drug lowered levels of a certain protein associated with retinal scarring, when injected into the eyes of monkeys.
The company said it could possibly develop a topical form of the drug to combat corneal scarring, which occurs due to injury or infection in the eye and can lead to blindness.
** ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND GROUP PLC, $11.15, +7.31 pct
The bank trebled its first-quarter profit, beating analysts’ expectations and handing a boost to new Chief Executive Ross McEwan as he looks to turn around the government-controlled lender’s fortunes. RBS benefited from improved cost controls and a fewer losses from bad loans.
** PARKERVISION INC, $5.14, +7.31 pct
The chipmaker said a U.S. District Court hearing the company’s patent infringement litigation against Qualcomm Inc denied Qualcomm’s request for a new trial on damages of $173 million that a jury awarded to PakerVision in October 2013.
The court also asked both parties to confer in order to determine if an agreement could be reached on an ongoing royalty rate.
** PMC-SIERRA INC, $7.12, +4.09 pct
The chipmaker reported better-than-expected first-quarter results on Thursday, helped by higher demand from its storage and server maker customers.
** MERCER INTERNATIONAL INC, $8.97, +8.07 pct
At least two brokerages raised their price targets on the Canadian pulp maker’s stock after it reported a better-than-expected first-quarter profit, due to strong demand backed by increased production. Raymond James also raised its rating on Mercer to “outperform” from “market perform”.
** ESTEE LAUDER COS INC, $74.55, +3.27 pct
The company, known for its Clinique and MAC brands, raised its earnings forecast for the full year, driven by the launch of new skin care and makeup products.
** HUTCHINSON TECHNOLOGY INC, $2.52, -13.10 pct
The maker of suspension assemblies for disk drives reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue, citing lower prices and weak demand from its business customers.
Hutchinson’s customers, Western Digital Corp and Seagate Technology plc, reported a fall in quarterly profit earlier this week due to lower sales to personal computer makers.
** HERCULES TECHNOLOGY GROWTH CAPITAL INC, $14.12, +4.21 pct
The financier, which lends to technology, biotech and energy companies, reported a first-quarter adjusted net investment income of 30 cents per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of 28 cents per share, as net realized gain on investments and assets from operations grew.
** PFIZER INC, $30.7, -1.44 pct
AstraZeneca’s board said it had rejected an improved $106 billion takeover offer from the U.S. drug maker, saying the bid undervalued the firm.
** INVENSENSE INC, $19.35, -6.02 pct
The motion-sensor chip maker reported fourth-quarter adjusted profit below analysts’ average estimate, as it increased research and development spending.
The company also forecast a weak current quarter on a conference call with analysts, prompting at least four brokerages to lower their price targets on the stock.
** KEYW HOLDING CORP, $12.34, -5.59 pct
The maker of cyber-security products, which counts the National Security Agency among its customers, reported an 18 percent fall in first-quarter revenue that also missed analysts’ average estimate, hurt mainly by lower orders from the U.S. government.
** DORAL FINANCIAL CORP, $4.01, -59.17 pct
The lender said it was revising its capital plan, which could include a sale of assets and businesses, in an effort to meet regulatory requirements.
** MICROS SYSTEMS INC, $53.54, +3.06 pct
The maker of data management systems for retailers and hotel chains reported better-than-expected third-quarter results on Thursday, helped by a 22 percent rise in hardware sales.
** SEQUENOM INC, $3.01, +12.69 pct
The genetic tests provider reported a smaller-than-expected first-quarter loss, helped by a 27 percent rise in revenue from its diagnostic services business. The company said about 75 percent of the $37.1 million in diagnostic services revenue was from payments collected for tests performed in prior periods.
** MANITOWOC CO INC, $29.43, -8.83 pct
The crane maker reported first-quarter results below analysts’ average estimate, partly due to project delays.
** RUBICON TECHNOLOGY INC, $8.81, -13.46 pct
The maker of sapphire cores and wafers forecast a bigger-than-expected current-quarter loss due to gross margin weakness. At least two brokerages cut their price targets on the company’s stock.
** BLUCORA INC, $17.58, -9.52 pct
The online tax-preparation and web-search provider forecast current-quarter revenue well below analysts’ average expectation, as a technology shift in its search business is expected to depress results.
At least three brokerages cut their price targets on the stock.
** ACTUATE CORP, $3.67, -33.27 pct
The business management and analytics software maker reported a surprise first-quarter loss, as license revenue fell 60 percent due to a delay in orders by some customers.
** JINKOSOLAR HOLDING CO LTD, $28.17, +3.00 pct
The Chinese solar company said it would supply 100 megawatt (MW) of modules for two solar projects in Chile’s Atacama Desert region.
** SKULLCANDY INC, $8.11, +4.65 pct
The headphones maker reported a smaller-than-expected first-quarter loss helped by a 20 percent rise in sales outside the United States. It also forecast current-quarter sales to grow 5 to 7 percent from $50.8 million a year earlier.
** ON SEMICONDUCTOR CORP, $8.94, -4.69 pct
The maker of power-management chips reported first-quarter revenue below analysts’ average estimate, hurt mainly by lower prices for its products.
** VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $67.47, +1.68 pct
The drug maker on Thursday said a combination of its cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco and an experimental compound was shown to improve lung function in a mid-stage trial.
** VISTEON CORP, $89.89, +2.79 pct
The auto parts maker said it would sell most of its automotive interiors business to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP as it focuses on its fast-growing climate control and electronics operations.
** NEWS CORP, $17.39, +0.52 pct
News Corp said it would buy romance novel publisher Harlequin Enterprises Ltd from Canadian newspaper company Torstar Corp to boost its non-English book publishing.
** MARCHEX INC, $11.25, +15.74 pct
The provider of call-based advertising services reported better-than-expected first-quarter results on Thursday as advertisers spent more on mobile advertising.
At least two brokerages raised their price targets on the stock on Friday.
** SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS HOLDINGS INC, $31.96, +5.03 pct
The aircraft components maker reported quarterly results way above analysts’ estimates as its customers, Boeing Co and Airbus Group NV, boosted production to meet surging demand for large planes.
** AMN HEALTHCARE SERVICES INC, $11.21, -11.03 pct
The healthcare staffing services provider on Thursday reported first-quarter revenue that missed analysts’ average estimate, hurt by lower revenue in its nurse and allied healthcare staffing business due to the impact of bad weather and cost pressures.
At least three brokerages cut their price targets on the company’s stock.
** SERVICESOURCE INTERNATIONAL INC, $4.1, -34.40 pct
The company, which helps manage service contract renewals mainly for technology companies, reported first-quarter revenue below analysts’ average estimate, hurt by slowing growth at its managed services business.
“ServiceSource missed its own internal bookings targets for the third quarter in a row,” JMP Securities analyst Patrick Walravens wrote in a research note. Walravens cut his price target on the stock to $9 from $15.
** INTUITIVE SURGICAL INC, $369.48, +2.88 pct
The medical device maker said it would buy back $1 billion of its common stock from Goldman Sachs. It expects to receive and retire a majority of the repurchased shares within two weeks. The remaining, if any, would be retired in early November, the company said.
** IMMUNOMEDICS INC, $3.27, -21.01 pct
The company said it planned to offer an undisclosed number of shares of its common stock to fund its late-stage pancreatic cancer trial and the ongoing mid-stage studies of its experimental compounds IMMU-132 and IMMU-130.
** ACORDA THERAPEUTICS INC, $32.28, -10.08 pct
Acorda said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected its nasal spray to treat epilepsy patients who experience repetitive seizures.
The drugmaker did not disclose the reason for the rejection, but said it planned to resubmit the application for the treatment.
** AGNICO-EAGLE MINES LTD, $32.04, +8.28 pct
The gold miner posted an increase in first-quarter earnings on Thursday despite weaker bullion prices, as it reported significantly higher gold production and lower production costs.
Analysts at Credit Suisse raised their price target on the company’s stock to $41 from $39
** SCIQUEST INC, $18.01, -24.23 pct
The company, whose cloud-based software helps manage supply chains, cut its full-year profit and sales forecast as its enterprise customers delayed signing up for its services. (Compiled by Rohit T. K. in Bangalore; Editing by Simon Jennings)