Stock market news

Post Market Update

Stocks that were in focus in U.S. trading on Thursday include: Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN), ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG), Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL), Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE:SWC), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL), Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ), Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT), Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD), Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG), Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY), Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS), EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT) and Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO).

Market Levels

•    US:  Dow: 13311.70 (0.45%), S&P 500: 1443.69 (0.55%), NASDAQ: 3050.39 (0.20%)
•    Europe: CAC: 3666.73 (0.06%), DAX: 7672.10 (0.05%), FTSE: 5958.34 (-0.05%)
•    Asia-Pacific: Australia: 4634.10 (0.35%), China: 2168.35 (0.28%), Hong Kong: 22659.78 (0.16%), India: 5916.40 (-0.22%), Japan: 10039.33 (-1.21%).
•    Metals: Gold: 1645.90 (-1.31%), Silver: 29.68 (-4.62%), Copper: 3.54 (-1.93%)
•    Energy: Crude Oil: 90.13 (0.17%), Natural Gas: 3.33 (-3.20%)
•    Commodities: Corn: 6.96 (-0.92%), Soya Bean: 14.04 (-1.83%), Wheat: 7.90 (-1.89%)
•    Currency: Euro (€) / US Dollar ($) (EURUSD): 1.3243 (-0.29%), British Pound Sterling (UK£) / US Dollar ($) (GBPUSD): 1.6278 (-0.16%), US Dollar ($) / Japanese Yen (¥) (USDJPY): 84.3950 (0.36%)
•    10 year US Treasury: 1.798% (-0.003)

Market and Economy News Update

U.S. markets end higher: U.S. markets finished higher on Thursday after House Speaker John Boehner said he would keep working on a solution to avert the “fiscal cliff.” On the economic front, leading indicators fell 0.2 percent to 95.8 in November, according to the Conference Board. The decline was in line with analysts’ expectations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 59.75 points, or 0.45 percent, to end at 13,311.72 and the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) added 7.88 points, or 0.55 percent, to close at 1,443.69 while the NASDAQComposite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) climbed 6.03 points, or 0.20 percent, to finish at 3,050.39.

Oil prices rise: Oil prices gained for the fifth consecutive session on Wednesday after data showed the U.S. economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter. However, gains were capped as U.S. budget talks seemed stuck in deadlock. Crude oil for January delivery added 0.2 percent, to settle at $90.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent oil for January settlement lost 0.2 percent to $110.13 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Stocks in Focus

Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN)

Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN) shares climbed 8 percent after Swiss newspaper L’Agefi said that the gene-sequencing company may have reached a deal to sell itself to Roche AG for $66 per share. The paper said that an announcement could come in the first half of January. Roche’s earlier offer of $51 per share had been dismissed as “woefully inadequate” by Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN). The San Diego-based Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN) has gained 85 percent this year amid the takeover talk.

ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG)

ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) said it earned 57 cents per share, excluding certain items, in its second quarter, two cents above estimates, with revenue also topping consensus. The packaged-food company said that a series of small acquisitions that boosted the top line. ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) also raised its full-year forecast to at least $2.06 a share, up from the prior $2.04 to $2.06 a share range. ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) shares rose 0.7 percent to $30.16.

Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)

Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) continued to fall on Thursday after hedge fund manager William Ackman explained why his Pershing Square Capital has a massive short position in the nutritional supplements company’s stock. Ackman called the company an unsustainable “pyramid scheme” and alleged that it inflated the suggested retail price of its products and overstated its retail sales in public filings. Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) responded by saying that Ackman’s presentation was filled many misstatements and mistakes.

Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL)

Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) fell sharply after the cruise operator reported lower profit and revenue for its latest quarter. For the fiscal fourth quarter ended November 30, Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) reported a profit of $93 million, or 12 cents a share, down from $217 million, or 28 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue fell 3.2 percent to $3.58 billion. For the full-year, Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) forecast earnings would rise to $2.20 to $2.40 a share on a revenue increase of 5-6 percent. Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $2.49 a share and a 7 percent increase in revenue.

Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE:SWC)

Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE:SWC) spiked in trade after Clinton Group sent a letter to its board of directors calling for the retirement of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank McAllister. Clinton Group accused Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE:SWC)’s board and management team of having made bad acquisitions, and asked them to reassess plans for projects in Canada and Argentina. New York-based Clinton Group owned about 0.5 percent of Stillwater Mining Company (NYSE:SWC) as of September 30.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) slumped in trade after the pharmaceutical company said its cholesterol drug study failed. Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) said its cholesterol drug Tredaptive failed to significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and it no longer plans to seek approval for the drug in the U.S. The company is also advising doctors in the approximately 40 countries where it is sold outside the U.S to not start new patients on Tredaptive. Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) said Tredaptive had sales of about $13 million for the first three quarters of 2012 in those countries.

Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL)

Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) has agreed to buy software company Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ) for about $810 million, as it seeks to bolster its cloud-computing services. Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ), founded in 2000, provides software that helps clients measure the effectiveness of marketing and sales initiatives. Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) offered $23.50 per Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ) share, a 31 percent premium to Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ)’s Nasdaq close on Wednesday. The deal is expected to close in the first half of next year. Eloqua Inc (NASDAQ:ELOQ) shares jumped to match the offer price, while Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL)’s shares fell 0.4 percent to $33.94.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT)

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) said global construction and mining equipment sales grew 5 percent in the three months to the end of November, down from 8 percent reported for the three months through October, as sales growth in North America decelerated. Sales in North America, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT)’s biggest market, rose 3 percent from a year ago, following a 13 percent increase in October. Asia Pacific sales rose 2 percent, while sales in Latin America increased 15 percent. Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) shares fell 0.9 percent to $89.50.

Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD)

Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD) jumped 16 percent after the drugstore chain reported its first quarterly profit in more than five years on Thursday. For the quarter ended December 1, Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD) posted a profit of $61.9 million, or 7 cents a share, compared with a loss of $52 million, or 6 cents a share, in the same period last year. Revenue fell 1.2 percent to $6.24 billion. Analysts were expecting a loss of 3 cents per share on $6.29 billion in revenue. Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD) also provided an improved fiscal 2013 per-share earnings target.

Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG)

Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG) has acquired a 47.5 percent stake in energy investor NGP Energy Capital Management for $424 million as part of efforts to boost its natural resources investments. Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG) also has the right to purchase an additional 7.5 percent stake in NGP Energy. Irving, Texas-based NGP Energy has about $12 billion in assets under management and invests in a whole host of energy and natural resource assets. Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG)’s shares were modestly higher at $26.20.

Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY)

Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY) agreed on Thursday to pay $29 million to settle federal charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making improper payments to foreign government officials to win millions of dollars of business in Russia, Brazil, China, and Poland. Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY) did not admit or deny the allegations, but instead agreed to have an independent compliance consultant review its internal controls. Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY) shares rose 33 cents to $49.25.

Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS)

Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) shares fell 3.4 percent after the credit-card lender reported a smaller-than-expected fourth quarter profit. Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) earned $551 million, or $1.07 a share, up from $513 million, or 95 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 11 percent to $1.99 billion. Analysts had forecast earnings of $1.13 a share on $1.97 billion of revenue. Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) said its credit-card portfolio grew 6.4 percent to $49.6 billion.

EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT)

Natural gas distribution EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT) has agreed to sell its Equitable Gas Co. unit to privately-held Peoples Natural Gas for $720 million in cash. As part of the deal, EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT) will also receive certain pipeline assets and commercial arrangements which are expected to generate at least $40 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization per year. Separately, EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT) said it would cut its annual dividend by 86 percent to 12 cents per share from 22 cents per share, effective January. EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT)’s shares closed 3.8 percent higher at $59.17.

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO)

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO) said fiscal first-quarter profit soared more than sevenfold due to improved demand for its recreational vehicles. For the period ended December 1, Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO) earned $7.4 million, or 26 cents per share, compared to $1 million, or 4 cents per share, a year earlier.  Revenue jumped 46 percent from last year to $193.6 million. Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WGO) shares soared 16 percent to $16.33.