Stocks in the News: Kraft Foods, Merck, Barclays

The following is a round-up of news likely to affect stock prices today:

Kraft Foods (KFT) said fourth-quarter profit more than tripled to $710 million, or 48 cents a share, as business improved in developing markets on price hikes and volume growth. Revenue rose 3% to $11.03 billion. Kraft beat earnings estimates of 45 cents per share, but revenue was lower than the $11.07 expected. Kraft expects comparable sales growth of 4% or more and long-term earnings growth at the high-end of its previous guidance. Shares declined 1.2% ahead of the bell.Merck & Co. (MRK) said its fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled to $6.49 billion, or $2.35 a share, mainly due to the purchase of Schering-Plough, but also as a result of higher sales of some key Merck products, including vaccines. Sales for the quarter grew by 66% to $10.09 billion. Adjusted earning were 79 cents per share, a penny below estimates. Shares jumped 2.8% in premarket trading.

J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) said Tuesday that it will acquire the oil, metals and European energy operations of RBS Sempra Commodities for around $1.7 billion in cash.

Barclays PLC (BCS) on Tuesday reported its fourth quarter profit soared eight fold to 6.9 billion pounds ($10.8 billion) due to gains on the sale of its Global Investors unit to a private equity company. Shares soared over 11% in premarket trading.

Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) reported on Tuesday a fourth-quarter profit of $379 million, or 42 cents per share, from a boost in sales of acquired Barr products and a mix of generic and branded drugs. Excluding one-off items, the company said it earned 94 cents per share, a penny below expectations. Sales surged 34% to $3.8 billion.

Qwest Communications (Q) said Tuesday its fourth-quarter net income fell some 40% to $108 million, or 6 cents a share, but excluding charges, was inline with estimates. Operating revenue fell nearly 10% to about $3 billion. Shares advanced 1.8% before the bell.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) says its fiscal fourth-quarter profit dropped 31% to $47.5 million, or 53 cents per share, partly on costs to close its Ruehl stores, but adjusted results topped analysts' expectations. Adjusted profit was 91 cents per share, above the 87 cents-per-share estimate. Sales slipped 5% to $936 million, short of Wall Street's $953.7 million. Shares were 1.2% higher.

Terra Industries (TRA) on Monday reached a $4.1 billion deal to be bought by Norway's Yara International (YARIY). Yara will pay $41.10 per Terra share in cash, a 24% premium to Terra's closing price Friday. TRA shares rallied over 21%.

AstraZeneca (AZN) on Tuesday said it's reached a pact to pay Rigel Pharmaceuticals (RIGL) up to $1.25 billion before royalties to license a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis -- a $13 billion market. RIGL shares climbed over 6% ahead of the bell.

Simon Property Group (SPG), the nations' largest mall owner, is making a $10 billion offer to acquire its ailing rival, General Growth Properties (GGWPQ).

Morgan Stanley downgradedGap Inc. (GPS) to underweight from equal-weight and J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) to equal-weight from overweight, citing concerns about margins at both retailers. Shares of both fell in premarket trading.

UBS upgraded Target (TGT) from neutral to buy.
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