Stocks in the news: Sears, JP Morgan, Intel, Hot Topic

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Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD) posted a smaller third-quarter loss Thursday of $127 million, or $1.09 per share, combating customers' continued desire to spend money elsewhere with tighter inventory management and cost-control efforts. Shares jumped 4% in pre-market trading. Excluding store closing costs and other items, Sears lost 81 cents per share, less than the average estimate of $1.09 loss per share.

J.P. Morgan (JPM) said Thursday that it will buy the half of the U.K. broker Cazenove it doesn't already own for around 1 billion pounds ($1.67 billion) in a deal that will net big payouts for many current and former employees. JPM shares dropped about 0.8% ahead of the bell.

BofA Merrill Lynch lowered its 2010 growth forecast for the global semiconductor industry to 18% from 21%, and downgraded 10 chipmakers: Intel (INTC) was downgraded to neutral from buy, as were rivals LSI Corp (LSI), Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) and ASML Holding NV (ASML). Microchip Technology Inc. (MCHP), Maxim Integrated Products Inc. (MXIM), National Semiconductor Corp. (NSM), Power Integrations Inc. (POWI) and ARM Holdings Plc. (ARMH) were downgraded to underperform from neutral. Intel shares fell nearly 3% before the bell.

Sony Corp. (SNE) said it aims to be profitable in gaming and flat-panel TVs by the fiscal year ending March 2011, pushing 3-D technology as a way to showcase its strength in entertainment and surface from deep losses. Sony is headed for its second straight billion-dollar loss in the current fiscal year ending March 2010.

Hot Topic Inc. (HOTT) reported in-line earnings late Wednesday, but issued a weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings forecast. Shares dropped over 12% in pre-market trading.

More retail earnings:
NetApp Inc. (NTAP) reported late Wednesday, posting a quarterly profit that more than doubled its numbers compared to the third quarter of 2008. Both top and bottom lines exceeded analyst estimates. Shares were 4% higher in pre-market trading.

Aetna Inc. (AET) said late Wednesday it expects to eliminate roughly 3.5% of its work force by the end of March 2010, due to the weak economy and the potential impact of health care reform.

AstraZeneca (AZN) submitted a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Ticagrelor, an investigational oral antiplatelet treatment for the reduction of major adverse cardiac events in patients with acute coronary syndrome.

Campbell Soup (CPB) raised its quarterly dividend 10% to 27.5 cents a share from 25 cents, payable on Feb. 1 to holders of record on Dec. 30.

Dell (DELL) will report its third-quarter earnings today.

Time Warner's (TWX) AOL Inc. may cut about a third of its staff due to a restructuring plan. AOL is slated to be spun off Dec. 9, and the restructuring plan is conditioned, in part, on that spin-off. AOL is the parent of DailyFinance.
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