Stocks in the news: Alcoa, Costco, AIG

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The following post rounds up the companies making headlines today:

Alcoa (AA) kicked off second quarter earnings season late Wednesday, reporting a lighter than expected loss of $454 million and noting some stability. Alcoa shares, which have been heavily pounded ahead of the earnings to test the $9 level on Monday, gained about 4.5% in pre-market trading at $9.90 per share.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) this morning reported that same-store sales dropped 6 percent in June, in line with expectations, because of lower demand, but mainly because of gasoline-price declines and fluctuations in exchange rates. Without those impacts, sales would have been down 1 percent in the U.S., and increase 8 percent internationally. Shares gained nearly a percent ahead of the bell.

Data Domain (DDUP) has agreed to be acquired by EMC Corp. (EMC) after rival bidder NetApp Inc. (NTAP) decided not to match EMC's offer. EMC will pay around $2.1 billion to buy the disaster-backup company. While EMC shares were about 1 percent higher in pre-market trade, and DDUP shares about 1 percent lower, NTAP shares jumped over 4 percent.

MetLife Inc. (MET) is in preliminary talks with American International Group (AIG) about the sale of American Life Insurance Company -- Alico -- in a deal that could raise $15 billion for the struggling insurer and four time bailout recipient. Meanwhile, an analyst at Citigroup said AIG will likely have no value left for private shareholders after repaying the U.S. MET shares gained about 2 percent ahead of the bell, AIG's dropped about 4 percent.

3Com Corp. (COMS) reported earnings that topped the company's expectations. Shares jumped nearly 5 percent earlier, but the latest pre-market trade at 9:00 a.m. showed only a 1 percent increase. [Update: COMS shares plummeted over 12 percent as the forecast trailed analyst estimates.]

Chevron Corp. (CVX) is due to report second-quarter earnings of $1.28 a share, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Walgreen Co. (WAG) said its board raised the quarterly dividend 22.2 percent to 13.75 cents from 11.25 cents.

Las Vegas Sands (LVS) wants to raise $3-$4 billion and is considering several options including an IPO of its Macau assets in Hong Kong, Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson told CNBC.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. (SMG) said it plans to close its Smith & Hawken operations by end of the year. The company expects to take a $25 million charge for the closure and see an earnings benefit of 15 cents a share in fiscal 2010 as a result.

More retail sales reports:

Wet Seal Inc., (WTSLA), where same-store sales dropped 11 percent, The Children's Place Retail Stores Inc. (PLCE), whose same-store sales plunged 12 percent, and Stage Stores Inc. (SSI), whose comp sales plummeted 12.6 percent. Meanwhile Hot Topic Inc. (HOTT) said its June comp sales fell 7.9 percent, more than estimates.

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