InPlay from Briefing.com

Briefing.com

4:46 pm DaVita announces CFO transition: Garry E. Menzel leaving to return to the biopharmaceutical industry; James K. Hilger to serve as interim CFO (DVA) : Co announced that Garry E. Menzel, Ph.D., chief financial officer, is leaving to return to the biopharmaceutical industry. James K. Hilger will serve as interim chief financial officer effective March 30, 2015, in addition to continuing in his role as chief accounting officer. Menzel will remain on board for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition.

4:37 pm This week's biggest % gainers/losers (:SCANX) : The following are this week's top 20 percentage gainers and top 20 percentage losers, categorized by sectors (over $300 mln market cap and 100K average daily volume).

This week's top 20 % gainers

  • Healthcare:ABMD (70.31 +17.18%),IMGN (8.25 +10.89%)
  • Materials:AKS (4.49 +10.86%)
  • Industrials:NMM (11.08 +13.64%)
  • Consumer Discretionary:OXM (70.8 +21.27%),QUNR (41.78 +13.81%),FIVE (35.24 +10.61%)
  • Information Technology:KFX (10.92 +44.64%),ALTR (44.41 +20.19%),GLOB (21.07 +18.3%),STMP (67.58 +15.17%),RALY (14.88 +15.08%)
  • Energy:FMSA (6.72 +23.99%),CAK (0.52 +21.16%),AXAS (3.26 +12.03%),PGH (3.01 +11.07%),NOG (7.81 +10.78%),EPE (10.74 +10.61%)
  • Consumer Staples:KRFT (89.1 +43.85%),DPLO (33.72 +20.9%)
This week's top 20 % losers
  • Healthcare:CLDN (21.09 -19.75%),CEMP (32 -19.54%),ESPR (90.65 -19.3%),SCMP (14.5 -18.95%),SGNT (22.83 -18.61%),IDRA (3.43 -18.06%),ZIOP (11.45 -17.6%),LBIO (11.2 -17.59%),ZSPH (40.93 -17.11%),KITE (59.78 -16.85%)
  • Consumer Discretionary:APOL (19.2 -30.83%)
  • Information Technology:SONS (8 -44.58%),SNDK (64.59 -25.82%),YGE (1.97 -17.57%),ROVI (18.48 -16.76%)
  • Financials:WRLD (74.98 -19.69%),ENVA (19.16 -19.05%),NSM (25.02 -16.43%)
  • Energy:WLL (30.5 -21.85%),BTU (5.13 -16.45%)

4:33 pm Globant prices upsized secondary offering of ~3.47 mln shares of common sttock at $18.50 per share (GLOB) : Co announced the pricing of its secondary public offering of 3,473,382 common shares by certain of its shareholders, which represents a 20% increase in the amount of shares offered over the 2,906,266 common shares announced at the commencement of the offering on March 23, 2015. The common shares were sold to the public at a price of $18.50 per share. The Company will not receive any proceeds from the sale of common shares by the selling shareholders. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering.

4:18 pm KBR and SOCAR announce new engineering joint venture in Azerbaijan (KBR) : Co signed a joint venture (:JV) agreement with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (:SOCAR) to establish a new engineering and support services company in Azerbaijan. With support from KBR and SOCAR, the new company will provide design, engineering, technical, procurement, construction supervision and project management service for projects across the upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas sectors, primarily in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The company will also prepare technical requirements for all stages of a project, including project management, contract supervision, planning and cost control. Additionally, it will train and develop the local workforce and supervise contractors throughout all stages of a project - from startup through construction and into performance testing.

4:16 pm Alpha and Omega Semi announces Dr. Hamza Yilmaz has resigned his position as Chief Technology Officer effective March 31, 2015; Dr. Sik Kwong Lui named Vice President (AOSL) : Co announced that Dr. Hamza Yilmaz has resigned his position as Chief Technology Officer effective March 31, 2015. The Company also announced that Dr. Sik Kwong Lui, a co-founder of the Company, has been named as Vice President of Silicon Technology and resumed his leadership role in technology development. Dr. Lui served AOS as Vice President of Device Technology and Engineering from 2001 to 2007 and Fellow from 2008 to 2014.

4:14 pm Closing Market Summary: Stock Market Snaps Four-Day Losing Streak (:WRAPX) : The major averages registered their first advance of the week on Friday with the Nasdaq Composite (+0.6%) ending ahead of the S&P 500 (+0.2%). Despite today's modest uptick, the two indices ended with respective losses of 2.7% and 2.2% for the week.

Overall, the final session of the week was fairly quiet with equity indices bouncing around narrow ranges. The S&P 500 spent the day in a ten-point channel with the bulk of the action occurring near its 100-day moving average (2,058). The benchmark index settled below that level on Thursday, but managed to reclaim that mark today.

Six of ten sectors registered gains with most countercyclical groups showing relative strength. The telecom services sector was an exception, ending flat, while consumer staples (+0.6%), utilities (+0.5%), and health care (+0.7%) posted gains.

Most notably, the third largest sector by weight-health care-was underpinned by biotechnology. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 347.46, +6.65) surged 2.0%, but still ended the week lower by 5.2%. Today, however, the industry group did some heavy lifting and contributed to the outperformance of the Nasdaq even as large cap technology names struggled.

The technology sector (+0.2%) started in-line with the market, but slumped from its opening high in a move that coincided with Apple (AAPL 123.25, -0.99) turning negative. The stock settled lower by 0.8%, but managed to hold its 50-day moving average (122.67). Meanwhile, high-beta chipmakers traded in mixed fashion until the final hour when it was reported that Intel (INTC 32.00, +1.92) is in talks to acquire Altera (ALTR 44.41, +9.83). The two names soared 6.4% and 28.5%, respectively and the news set a fire under the entire chipmaker space with the PHLX Semiconductor Index surging 2.8%. It is worth noting that the late surge lifted the entire sector into positive territory.  

Elsewhere among cyclical sectors, energy (-0.7%) and financials (-0.1%) lagged while consumer discretionary (+0.5%) and industrials (+0.4%) outperformed.

The energy sector ended the day at the bottom of the barrel, but still finished the week ahead of the remaining cyclical sectors (-0.7%). Crude oil factored into today's weakness as the energy component fell 5.0% to $48.87/bbl and continued its retreat during electronic trading. Despite the plunge, WTI crude gained 4.9% for the week.

Also of note, the financial sector (-0.1%) finished with a slim loss today, but ended the week behind the remaining nine sectors with a 3.0% loss.

On the flip side, the consumer discretionary sector (+0.5%) ended ahead of other cyclical groups with help from homebuilders and retailers. The iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (ITB 27.79, +0.46) gained 1.7% while SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 100.24, +0.82) advanced 0.8%.

Treasuries spent the day in a steady climb from their overnight lows with the 10-yr yield slipping four basis points to 1.96%.

Today's participation was below average with roughly 725 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor.

Economic data was limited to Q4 GDP and Michigan Sentiment:

  • GDP growth in Q4 2014 was unrevised in the third estimate and remained at 2.2% after increasing 5.0% in Q3. The Briefing.com consensus expected a revision to 2.4% 
    • Real final sales saw a slight upward revision to 2.3% from 2.1%, but nothing in the data altered the notion that economic growth trends slowed down significantly in the fourth quarter 
  • The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index was revised up to 93.0 in the March final reading from a preliminary reading of 91.2 while the Briefing.com consensus expected a revision up to 92.0 
On Monday, February Personal Income, Personal Spending, and core PCE Prices will be released at 8:30 ET while the Pending Home Sales report for February will cross the wires at 10:00 ET.
  • Nasdaq Composite +3.3% YTD 
  • Russell 2000 +2.9% YTD 
  • S&P 500 +0.1% YTD 
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average -0.6% YTD 
Week in Review: Stocks Pull Back

The stock market began the trading week on a sleepy note. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.1%) and S&P 500 (-0.2%) surrendered their slim gains during the final hour while the Nasdaq Composite settled lower by 0.3% after lagging throughout the session. Equity indices spent the entire Monday session near their flat lines while the Dollar Index (96.86, -1.05) extended its retreat that began during the previous week. The index fell 1.1% with the greenback giving up 1.4% to the euro (1.0966). The single currency rallied in the morning and saw little afternoon reaction to a joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The two leaders did not provide any specifics about their earlier meeting, suggesting the two sides remain at odds with regard to finding a sustainable solution for Greece.

Equity indices registered their second consecutive decline on Tuesday with the S&P 500 retreating 0.6%. The benchmark index ended in-line with the Dow Jones Industrial Average while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) outperformed slightly. Equities traded near their flat lines through the first half of the session before sliding to lows during afternoon action. All ten sectors finished the day in negative territory with technology (-0.3%) registering the slimmest loss. Also of note, the Dollar Index (97.15, +0.12) was on track for its third consecutive decline, but an early morning rebound following an in-line CPI report (+0.2%) helped the Index finish with a slim gain. Meanwhile, crude oil endured some intraday volatility before settling higher by 0.1% at $47.51/bbl. Strikingly, crude's flat finish could not stop the energy sector (-0.8%) from ending the day among the laggards. Notably, Whiting Petroleum (WLL) sank 19.5% after pricing a secondary share and note offering.

The market registered its third consecutive decline on Wednesday with the S&P 500 ending lower by 1.5%. The benchmark index settled below its 50-day moving average (2,067) while the Nasdaq Composite (-2.0%) underperformed throughout the day. The S&P 500 hovered near its flat line during the opening hour, but high-beta groups like biotechnology, chipmakers, and transport stocks began showing weakness early on and continued their retreat throughout the day. As a result, eight sectors settled in the red with five ending behind the benchmark index. Most notably, the technology sector surrendered 2.7% with chipmakers enduring even more aggressive selling. All 30 components of the PHLX Semiconductor Index (-4.6%) finished in the red with ARM Holdings (ARMH) and Lam Research (LRCX) leading the slide with respective losses of 6.2% and 7.6% while heavyweight Intel (INTC) tumbled 2.9%.

On Thursday, equities posted modest losses after climbing off their opening lows. The S&P 500 shed 0.2% and settled below its 100-day moving average (2,057) while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) underperformed. Equity indices could not avoid registering their fourth consecutive decline, but they were able to avoid settling on their lows. The market began the day under pressure after overnight reports revealed that coalition forces from ten countries, led by Saudi Arabia, carried out air strikes against rebel forces in Yemen. This followed Wednesday's reports indicating Yemen's President Hadi fled his country by sea. The news gave a boost to the dollar, but the yen also rallied against its peers, which signaled caution among participants in the foreign exchange market. The Dollar Index (97.36, +0.38) gained 0.4% as the greenback spiked 0.8% against the euro, sending the single currency from a morning high near 1.1050 to 1.0880. For its part, the dollar/yen pair slipped 0.3% to 119.20 after testing the 118.50 level in the morning. In addition, the latest developments in the Middle East led to concerns about potential disruptions to the energy market. As a result, crude oil surged 4.6% to $51.43/bbl. However, the energy sector (-0.2%) could not make it out of the red.

4:11 pm Health Net subsidiary Health Net Federal Services receives contract extension of up to three additional one-year option periods to continue providing TRICARE services (HNT) : Health Net Federal Services, a subsidiary of Health Net (HNT), announced that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) modified the Company's TRICARE program contract in the North Region to, among other things, add three additional one-year option periods. As part of the modification, the DoD awarded the first of the three option periods, allowing Health Net to continue providing access to health care services to TRICARE beneficiaries through at least March 31, 2016. If the DoD ultimately exercises the two remaining option periods, the contract will run through March 31, 2018.

4:06 pm Madison Square Garden announces filing of Form 10 Registration Statement for separation of sports and entertainment business from media business (MSG) : The planned separation would be structured as a tax-free spin-off of the sports and entertainment business to MSG shareholders on a pro rata basis. The transaction is currently expected to be completed during 2015. The live sports and entertainment company would comprise a portfolio of:

  • Professional sports franchises: the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers and the New York Liberty, along with development teams: the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Westchester Knicks 
  • Venues including Madison Square Garden Arena, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theater, the Forum in Inglewood, CA, The Chicago Theater, and the Wang Theater in Boston 
  • Live productions, including the Radio City Christmas Spectacular 
  • MSG's venue management capabilities and industry-leading expertise in bookings, as well as its sponsorship, marketing, ticketing and promotional expertise and platforms 
  • MSG's strategic entertainment joint ventures 
  • MSG's interest in Fuse Media, the parent company of NUVOtv and Fuse networks
In connection with the separation, the companies expect to enter into long-term media rights agreements that will ensure MSG Network and MSG+ continue to serve as the exclusive local broadcast home of the Knicks and Rangers

4:06 pm Xoom announces appointment of Tom Killalea to Board of Directors as Independent Director and resignation of Keith Rabois (XOOM) : Co announced the appointment of Tom Killalea to its Board of Directors, effective immediately.

  • Mr. Killalea will join as an independent board member. 
  • Xoom also announced that Keith Rabois has resigned from the board of directors effective following the Company's annual meeting, currently scheduled to be held on May 28, 2015.

4:02 pm Kimco Realty and RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (RIOCF) announce joint divestiture and purchase of properties (KIM) : RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (RIOCF) and Kimco Realty announced that RioCan will acquire Kimco's 50% interest in two Canadian properties held in the RioKim joint venture, Brentwood Village and Grand Park, as part of a trade transaction whereby Kimco will purchase RioCan's 80% interest in Montgomery Plaza, a shopping center currently held in a joint venture with Kimco.

  • Montgomery Plaza is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area RioCan will acquire Kimco's 50% interest in Brentwood Village in Calgary, Alberta and Grand Park in Mississauga, Ontario at a total purchase price of $87.5 million net of in place debt of $8.0 million representing an equity commitment of $79.5 million by RioCan. 
  • RioCan will, in turn, sell its 80% interest in Montgomery Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas to Kimco at a sale price of  $58.3 million net of in place debt of $23.6 million representing equity of $34.7 million with the remaining purchase price to be paid in cash by RioCan.
  • The acquisition of Brentwood Village and RioCan Grand Park are expected to be completed on March 31, 2015, with the remaining closings to be completed upon obtaining customary lender consents. 

3:39 pm Late day jump to new highs for Nasdaq Comp +30 -- Dow +38, S&P +5.7 (:TECHX) :  

3:33 pm Earnings Preview for the week of March 30 - April 3 (:SUMRX) : Of the companies reporting earnings for the week of March 30 - April 3 some of the bigger names include:

  • Monday:
    • Pre Market - UTIW, AIR, CALM, NCFT
    • After Hours - MDLY
  • Tuesday:
    • Pre Market - SAIC, CONN, MOV, VTNR
    • After Hours - SNX, DCO, LNDC, INGN, RGSE, FRPT, PRGN
  • Wednesday:
    • Pre Market - MON, AYI, UNF, IKGH
    • After Hours - SPWH, PRGS, SIGM
  • Thursday:
    • Pre Market - KMX, DANG, CVGW, PERY, SEAC
    • After Hours - MU, FC

3:17 pm WhiteWave Foods (+3%) extends breakout in to new all time highs (WWAV) :  

3:06 pm Stock indices vacillating at/slightly above tight midday range highs -- Dow +28, S&P +4.3, Nasdaq Comp +20 (:TECHX) :  

2:50 pm Apple slides to a new session low (AAPL) : The stock is down roughly 4% since its inclusion in the DJIA with the recently established session low (123.05) leaving it slightly above its 50 ema/sma and yesterday's low in the 122.80/122.60 area. The low for the month, which also approximated its 50 ema at the time, is at 121.63.

2:46 pm Omega Health stockholders approve issuance of shares of Omega common stock to stockholders of Aviv REIT (AVIV) in connection with the proposed merger (OHI) : The transaction is expected to close on or about April 1, 2015, subject to satisfaction of all remaining closing conditions. Assuming completion of the merger, Aviv stockholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.90 of an Omega share for each share of Aviv common stock they own.

2:32 pm Neogen announces that CEO James Herbert has adopted a 10b5-1 Trading Plan (NEOG) : Co announced that Jerome Properties has adopted a prearranged trading plan in accordance with Securities and Exchange Commission rule 10b5-1. Herbert does not have control of this entity. The filing is only for a portion of the shares owned by that entity and is a small portion of total shares of Neogen stock held by Herbert or for his benefit.

  • The 10b5-1 Plan adopted by Jerome Properties LLC involves a market order to sell up to 10,000 shares per month of Neogen Corporation common stock each month for one year. The Plan will take effect on April 1, 2015 and expire on March 31, 2016.

12:53 pm Midday Market Summary: Nasdaq Leads (:WRAPX) : The major averages sport modest midday gains with the Nasdaq Composite (+0.3%) trading ahead of the S&P 500 (+0.1%).

Equity indices have spent the first half of the trading day inside narrow ranges with the S&P 500 bouncing between 2,052 and 2,063 after starting the day just below its 100-day moving average (2,058).

Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq leads even though the technology sector (-0.4%) sits near the bottom of the leaderboard with its largest component-Apple (AAPL 123.48, -0.76)-trading lower by 0.6%. However, biotechnology has picked up the slack, evidenced by a 2.3% gain in the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 348.74, +7.93). Despite today's spike, the high-beta ETF remains down 4.9% for the week. For its part, the health care sector (+0.8%) is the second best performer, only trailing utilities (+0.9%).

Although biotechnology has displayed significant strength, a couple other influential groups like financials (-0.3%) and energy (-0.5%) have prevented the market from clearing its early high. Notably, the energy sector has been pressured by a 2.7% decline in crude oil. The energy component hovers near $50.00/bbl, but remains on course to end the week higher by 7.4%.

WTI crude has retreated today, which has also been the case with the dollar. Currently, the Dollar Index (97.25, -0.19) is lower by 0.2% after surrendering its overnight strength. Notably, the euro trades higher by 0.2% at 1.0900 after hitting a low near 1.0805.

Elsewhere, Treasuries have spent the day in a steady climb off their overnight lows. The 10-yr yield is lower by three basis points at 1.96%.

Economic data was limited to Q4 GDP and Michigan Sentiment:

  • GDP growth in Q4 2014 was unrevised in the third estimate and remained at 2.2% after increasing 5.0% in Q3. The Briefing.com consensus expected a revision to 2.4% 
    • Real final sales saw a slight upward revision to 2.3% from 2.1%, but nothing in the data altered the notion that economic growth trends slowed down significantly in the fourth quarter 
  • The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index was revised up to 93.0 in the March final reading from a preliminary reading of 91.2 while the Briefing.com consensus expected a revision up to 92.0

12:53 pm Notable movers of interest (:SCANX) : The following are some of today's most notable movers of interest, categorized by market capitalization (large cap over $10 billion and mid cap between $2-10 billion) and ranked by % change (all stocks over 100K average daily volume). 

Large Cap Gainers

  • BMRN (130.76 +13.16%): Trading higher on a report the company may be acquired by Shire (SHPG); Also had its price tgt raised at Deutsche Bank and UBS.
  • CCL (47.18 +6.22%): Beat Q1 consensus EPS estimates by $0.11, missed on revs; guided Q2 EPS below consensus; lowered high end of FY15 EPS, reaffirmed net rev yield ex-FX.
  • KRFT (88.08 +4.37%): Upgraded to Buy at Canaccord Genuity.
Large Cap Losers
  • MT (9.58 -4.2%): Downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.
  • TSLA (184.01 -3.36%): Initiated with a Hold at Argus; also reports out that China Tesla's Model S registrations fell 45% month over month.
  • EMC (25.26 -2.15%): Downgraded to Sector Perform at Pacific Crest.
Mid Cap Gainers
  • OLN (32.86 +20.85%): Dow Chemical (DOW) announced it will spinoff of its chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses to combine with Olin Corporation (OLN) in transaction valued at $5 bln.
  • ICPT (291.79 +3.22%): Price target raised to $400 from $300 at Deutsche Bank; Buy.
  • BBRY (9.54 +2.58%): Beat Q4 consensus EPS estimates by $0.08, missed on revs with 1.3 mln smartphones; reaffirmed target for FY16 non-GAAP profitability.
Mid Cap Losers
  • RIG (14.52 -5.32%): Sector-wide weakness in the energy sector with WTI crude declining 2.6% on the day (DNR, SDRL, CIE also lower).
  • ALGN (52.35 -4.09%): Co announced that Thomas Prescott will retire as president and CEO effective June 1, 2015.
  • WCC (67.62 -3.04%): Downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird.

12:51 pm European Markets Closing Prices (:SUMRX) : European markets are now closed; stock markets across Europe performed as follows:

  • UK's FTSE:-0.6%
  • Germany's DAX:+0.2%
  • France's CAC:+0.6%
  • Spain's IBEX:-0.2%
  • Portugal's PSI:+1.1%
  • Italy's MIB Index:+0.4%
  • Irish Ovrl Index:+0.0%
  • Greece ASE General Index: +0.5%

12:45 pm Sabre announces the proposed offering by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sabre GLBL Inc. of $530 mln aggregate principal amount of senior secured notes due 2023 (SABR) : The net proceeds from the sale of the Notes will be used to redeem all of the $480 million currently outstanding aggregate principal amount of the 8.5% senior secured notes due 2019 issued by Sabre GLBL and to pay accrued interest, premiums, fees and expenses related thereto. Any excess net proceeds will be available for general corporate purposes.

12:39 pm Relative sector strength (:TECHX) : The major averages continue to drift within limited ranges but have seen some intraday relative sector strength in recent action in: Industrial XLI, Housing XHB, Gold Miners GDX, Silver SLV, Rail.

12:17 pm Baker Hughes and Halliburton (HAL) announce that their stockholders adopted the merger agreement and thereby approved the proposed combination of the two companies (BHI) : Nearly 99% of the shares voted at Halliburton's special meeting voted in favor of the proposal to issue Halliburton shares. Separately, more than 98% of the shares voted at Baker Hughes' special meeting voted in favor of the transaction, representing more than 75% of all outstanding shares of Baker Hughes.

  • The close of the transaction is expected to occur late in the second half of 2015, and remains subject to regulatory approvals, as well as other customary closing conditions.

12:04 pm Exelon subsidiary PECO announces request to increase rates to fund $300 mln ongoing electrical infrastructure modernization; rate request totals $190 mln, requested to begin in January 2016 (EXC) :  

11:56 am Norfolk Southern announced that is has launched a $53 mln conversion project at its Juniata Locomotive Shop aimed at reducing carbon emissions and water usage (NSC) :  

11:55 am Stocks/ETFs that traded to new 52 week highs/lows this session - New lows (65) outpacing new highs (47) (:SCANX) : Stocks that traded to 52 week highs: ADPT, AMOT, AYI, AZO, BMRN, CBPO, CCL, CEA, CRWN, CUK, DK, DPLO, DRRX, ENSG, FBR, FIX, FSFG, GLOB, GY, HMPR, HPTX, IMH, INFN, KAI, KRFT, LEVY, MHF, MTN, OLN, PKI, PRSC, REV, ROLL, SABR, SBCF, SIG, SPTN, TA, TIK, TSLF, USAT, UWN, VASC, VRNT, WWAV, WWW, ZNH

Stocks that traded to 52 week lows: ACRE, ADEP, AI, ALIM, AMCF, APOL, ARDM, ARLP, AXPW, BAGR, BANX, BOSC, BTU, BV, CECE, CHCI, CHEK, CLTX, DSX, DV, DWSN, ELON, FBC, FHCO, FSAM, FULL, GLF, GRAM, IKAN, INPH, JMI, KBR, LAYN, MAT, MEIP, MICT, MLHR, MRVC, MSB, MSM, NBS, NTP, OB, OHRP, ONVO, OPXA, OXGN, PDI, PFMT, PKX, PM, PRGN, PRGX, RCS, REN, SCHN, SNDK, SNI, SONS, TDW, TSU, TWI, VIV, WIN, YUMA

ETFs that traded to 52 week highs: none

ETFs that traded to 52 week lows: SGG, VNM

11:22 am Dow +30 and S&P +5.2 set minor new highs, outperforming Nasdaq Comp +21 paused just shy of its first hour high (:TECHX) :  

11:16 am Currency Commentary: Currencies Settling (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index was able to rally to 97.90 in early trade. But, after an initial pop at the open of European equity trading, the greenback has come under selling pressure. The DXY is no back down to the 97.25 area which is so far holding support. Currency movements have cooled off following a very volatile week. This afternoon, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be speaking oin the future of monetary policy. Markets are not expecting much in the way of news as Ms. Yellen just held her policy meeting press conference last week. But there will still be plenty of eyeballs on the speech which will hit 15 minutes before the close of equity trading.
  • The euro was hit by some early selling as it fell a quick 60 pips at the open of European equity trading. But it was able to hold the 1.0820 level and has regained the majority of its early losses. 
  • The pound is stronger this morning as it climbs back to test 1.49 for resistance. Sterling has yet to prove it can break above and hold the key 1.50 psyche level so the burden remains on buyers. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said it is more likely that the central bank would raise rates than cut rates as its next step. This has helped provide a bid for cable. But the move has been limited as the expectations for any type of hike continue to be pushed out by weak inflation data.
  • The yen is probing the 119 area but is seeing resistance. We hate to sound like a broken record but this simply remains in a consolidating phase. It was a busy night on the economic front as the country reported Household Spending (beat), CPI (miss), and Retail Sales (miss). (BONDX, FOREX)

11:05 am Zimmer Hldgs announces it intends to launch the Xtrafix, an external fixation system for trauma patients in 6mm and 11mm sizes (ZMH) :  

11:01 am World Wrestling and Facebook (FB) announce an agreement to offer exclusive content for Wrestlemania 31 on Facebook prior to, during and after the event (WWE) :  

10:56 am Google minor bounce after three day slide brings its 200/50 ema into play at 548.80/547.28 -- session low 548.75 (GOOG) :  

10:40 am Constructive bounce in unison for major averages after choppy first hour -- Dow +20, S&P +3, Nasdaq Comp +14 (:TECHX) :  

10:31 am Hewlett-Packard breaks under its Oct and mid-month lows at 31.62/31.51 to set a new 10 month low of 31.43 (HPQ) : Its May 2014 low comes into play at 31.21

10:27 am Morning chop continues with indices rebounding off first hour lows -- S&P +1.4, Nasdaq Comp +5.5, Dow -4 (:TECHX) :  

10:15 am American Realty Capital expects to issue, jointly with its operating partnership, ARC Properties Operating Partnership, L.P., their 2014 Annual Report on Form 10-K on Monday, March 30, 2015 (ARCP) : The co will also host an audio webcast on that same day at 10 a.m. Eastern Time to provide a business update and discuss ARCP's financial results

10:14 am Stock indices falter in recent trade with Dow -37 and S&P -1.8 setting new session lows -- Nasdaq Comp +4.5 (:TECHX) :  

10:13 am Amira Nature Foods announces that its brand products will now be available on Amazon.com (ANFI) : Amira will offer twenty SKU's of Amira brand products on Amazon, including the Amira Gold Line, Smoked Basmati and 10lb and 20lb Amira Premium Basmati Rice.

10:04 am S&P +4.5, joins Nasdaq Comp +24 and small-/mid-caps at new session high, Dow +23 still slightly under its opening high (:TECHX) :  

10:00 am Relative sector weakness (:TECHX) : Sectors that are underperforming thus far this morning include: Crude Oil USO, Steel SLX, Copper JJC, Steel SLX, Gold Miners GDX, Natural Gas UNG, Oil Service OIH, Mining XME, Energy XLE, Silver SLV, Gold GLD, Reg Bank KRE.

9:52 am Small-caps and Nasdaq Comp +21 hovering near highs -- Dow +13 and S&P +3 limited thus far (:TECHX) :  

9:50 am Biglari Holdings: Glass Lewis & Co has recommended that shareholders of Biglari WITHHOLD votes from the entire board of directors, citing governance and performance shortfalls (BH) : Additionally, Glass Lewis recommended BH shareholders vote FOR two of Groveland's highly qualified nominees to the board of directors of Biglari Holdings at the Company's upcoming annual meeting of shareholders, scheduled to be held on April 9, 2015.

9:49 am Raytheon unit reaches settlement with UK Home Office; settlement includes cash payment from UK Home Office to RSL of GBP150 mln in exchange for resolution of all claims and counterclaims of both parties (RTN) : Co confirms it has successfully concluded a long-running dispute with the U.K. Home Office regarding the July 2010 termination of its eBorders contract.

9:48 am Petrobras Brasileiro shares agenda of its 2015 Annual Shareholder Meeting, provides update on status of 2014 results (PBR) : The co announced that the Annual Shareholders Meeting scheduled for April 29, 2015 will deliberate about the following items: Election of Board of Directors member and Election of Fiscal Council members

  • Additional items attributed to the Annual Shareholders Meeting, such as, (i) analyze, discuss and vote on the financial statements and rendering of accounts of managers; (ii) vote on the allocation of the net income of the fiscal year and distribution of dividends related to fiscal year 2014 and; (iii) approve the capital budget related to fiscal year 2015, will be on the agenda of an Extraordinary General Meeting to be held at the earliest possible time.
  • Petrobras reiterates its firm intention to finalize the work of preparing its financial statements as soon as possible; however there is still no date for completion.
  • The co noted that material facts concerning this matter will be promptly disclosed to the market.

9:45 am Johnson & Johnson announced that its medical device company Ethicon has executed a definitive agreement to enter into a strategic collaboration with Google (GOOG) to advance surgical robotics to benefit surgeons, patients and health care systems (JNJ) : The companies will bring together capabilities, intellectual property and expertise to create an innovative robotic-assisted surgical platform capable of integrating advanced technologies with the goal of improving health care delivery in the operating room. The collaboration was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in California.The closing of the transaction is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions. The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of 2015. Financial terms were not disclosed.

9:41 am Yahoo! extends gap higher start to 45.39, this week's high and its March rebound high are at 45.54/45.58 (YHOO) :  

9:40 am Opening Market Summary: Biotechnology Paces Opening Advance (:WRAPX) : The major averages shook off their pre-market weakness and opened with modest losses. The Nasdaq Composite (+0.4%) leads while the S&P 500 (+0.1%) follows not far behind with six sectors showing early gains.

Biotechnology has paced the opening rally with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 347.05, +6.24) trading higher by 1.8%. The strength has contributed to the outperformance of the Nasdaq while the health care sector (+0.9%) trades well ahead of the remaining groups.

Elsewhere, the consumer discretionary sector (+0.4%) also outperforms with retail stocks showing strength. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT 99.83, +0.41) trades higher by 0.4%.

Treasuries sit near their highs with the 10-yr yield down two basis points at 1.97%.

The final reading of the Michigan Sentiment Index for March (consensus 92.0) will cross the wires at 10:00 ET.

9:37 am Biglari Holdings: Groveland Group comments on ISS recommendation to withhold votes on entire Biglari Holdings Board (BH) : "We strongly agree with ISS's assessment that BH shareholders are frustrated and that corporate governance reform at Biglari Holdings is warranted. We believe ISS has a paradigm for majority board change. While the Groveland Group's slate didn't fulfill all of their requirements, we understand and respect this institutional imperative. At the same time, we believe shareholders bear real and immediate costs if they do not vote for reform NOW by voting FOR each of our highly qualified nominees on the WHITE proxy card."

9:37 am Mildly firmer tone after choppy pre-market action -- Dow +28, S&P +3, Nasdaq Comp +19 (:TECHX) : Helping to underpin in early trade are: Biotech IBB, Health XLV, Semi XSD, Solar TAN, Home Const ITB, Pharma PPH, Retail XRT, Restaurant, Social Media SOCL, Broker IAI.

9:32 am TriplePoint Venture Growth has priced its follow-on offering of 6.5 mln shares of common stock resulting in net proceeds exclusive of offering expenses to the Company of ~$94.6 mln (TPVG) :  

9:30 am Astrotech announces that the United States Patent Office has issued its 1st Detect subsidiary a key patent for improving the sensitivity and identification capability of its ion trap, used for chemical analysis and detection (ASTC) :  

9:23 am Carnival beats by $0.11, misses on revs; guides Q2 EPS below consensus; lowers high end of FY15 EPS, reaffirms net rev yield ex-FX (CCL) : Reports Q1 (Feb) earnings of $0.20 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.11 better than the Capital IQ Consensus of $0.09 and $0.07-0.11 guidance; revenues fell 1.5% year/year to $3.53 bln vs the $3.57 bln consensus.

  • On a constant dollar basis, net revenue yields increased 2.0% vs. +0-1% guidance; gross revenue yields decreased 3.1 percent in current dollars due to changes in currency exchange rates. 
Co issues downside guidance for Q2, sees EPS of $0.11-0.15, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $0.27 Capital IQ Consensus.
  • Q2 constant dollar net revenue yields are expected to increase 2 to 3% YoY. Net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD +6.5 to 7.5% on a constant dollar basis. The increase is driven by higher annual dry-dock costs primarily all of which will be incurred in the second quarter. Changes in fuel prices net of fuel derivatives and currency exchange rates (constant currency) are expected to benefit second quarter earnings by $74 million compared to the prior year, or $0.09 per share.
Co issues guidance for FY15, sees EPS of $2.30-2.50 (from $2.30-2.60), excluding non-recurring items, vs. $2.50 Capital IQ Consensus. 
  • At this time, cumulative advance bookings for the remainder of 2015 are ahead of the prior year at higher prices. Since January, booking volumes for the remainder of the year are running in line with last year's historically high levels at higher prices. 
  • Co expects FY15 net revenue yields to increase 3 to 4% on a constant currency basis, which excludes translation and transactional currency impacts. This is one full point better than December guidance on a constant currency basis. On a constant dollar basis, which does not exclude the unfavorable transactional impact of currency, the co still expects yields to be ~2 percent higher than the prior year.
  • Since Dec, unfavorable changes in currency exchange rates (constant currency) have reduced FY15 EPS by $0.28 per share. However, this impact has been significantly offset by the improvement in the co's operating performance, resulting in just a $0.05 reduction to the midpoint of December guidance.

9:18 am Unit: Fitch Ratings has affirmed all ratings for Unit with a Stable Rating Outlook (UNT) :  

9:16 am CrossAmerica Partners announces that Joe Topper, CEO and President has decided to retire as CEO effective September 30, 2015 (CAPL) : In order to ensure a smooth leadership transition, Topper will resign as President of CrossAmerica effective immediately and Jeremy Bergeron, who served as CST Brands' (CST) Senior Vice President of Integration and Development Operations, has been named CrossAmerica's President. Topper will continue the day-to-day management of CrossAmerica until September 30th. Bergeron will report to Topper until Topper retires as CEO. Topper will also continue to serve on the boards of both CrossAmerica and CST Brands after he formally steps down as CEO.

9:13 am Opko Health: announces the presentation of additional phase 3 clinical data; responses to Rayaldee treatment are as good in patients with stage 4 CKD as they are in stage 3 CKD (OPK) : The data to be presented will highlight the unexpected finding that responses to Rayaldee treatment are as good in patients with stage 4 CKD as they are in stage 3 CKD. The data support the conclusion that Rayaldee effectively controls SHPT through the correction of vitamin D insufficiency irrespective of CKD severity.

9:12 am S&P futures vs fair value: -3.80. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -6.10. (:WRAPX) : The stock market is on track for a modestly lower open as futures on the S&P 500 trade four points below fair value. Index futures held gains at the start of the night, but retreated steadily, hitting pre-market lows around 6:00 ET; however, S&P 500 futures have cut their losses in half since then.

Yesterday, the benchmark index marked its session high just below the 50-day average (2,068), but slumped into the close and settled south of its 100-day moving average (2,057), which is likely to be an area of focus once again today.

In economic data, Q4 GDP growth was left unrevised at 2.2% while the Briefing.com consensus expected a revision to 2.4%.

On the corporate front, Dow Chemical (DOW 48.40, +2.06) has jumped 4.4% in pre-market action after announcing plans to spin off its chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives business, which will be combined with Olin Corporation (OLN 34.51, +7.32). Shares of OLN are on course to open higher by 26.9%.

Treasuries hold modest gains with the 10-yr yield lower by two basis points at 1.97%.

The final reading of the Michigan Sentiment Index for March (consensus 92.0) will cross the wires at 10:00 ET.

9:05 am Applied DNA Sciences has priced its public offering of 3.82 mln shares of its common stock and warrants to purchase up to an aggregate of 1,528,000 shares of common stock, at a combined public offering price of $3.00 (APDN) : The warrants have an exercise price of $3.50 per share, expire on November 20, 2019 and will trade under the symbol APDNW. The gross proceeds to the Company from this offering are estimated to be approximately $11.46 million before deducting the underwriting discount and other estimated offering expenses.

9:02 am PharmaCyte Biotech on track to commence clinical trials (PMCB) : Co announced that the genetically modified cells that are required for its three planned clinical trials have been fully tested and are in the process of being propagated to produce all of the cells necessary for the clinical trials.

9:02 am Corp Office Props affirms Diluted FFO guidance; Modifies to reflect transfer of two operations and effect of acquisition costs (OFC) : Corporate Office Properties Trust has affirmed its previously announced guidance for Diluted FFO per share ("FFOPS"), as adjusted for comparability. However, it has modified its previously announced guidance for FFOPS and Diluted EPS to: (1) reflect its expectation that the transfer of two operating properties in satisfaction of non-recourse secured indebtedness, previously announced as expected to occur by March 31, 2015, is now expected to occur later in 2015; and (2) reflect the effect of acquisition costs on operating properties for the three months ending March 31, 2015. 

  • The Company is affirming its previously announced guidance for FFOPS, as adjusted for comparability; FFOPS, as adjusted for comparability, of between $0.44 and $0.46 for Q1 and between $1.97 and $2.03 for FY14
  • Sees Q1 FFOPS of between $0.45 and $0.47 (Prior $1.21-1.23)
  • Sees FY14 FFOPS between $2.73 and $2.79 (Prior $2.74-2.80).
  • Diluted Q1 EPS of between $0.10 and $0.12 (Prior $0.86-0.88).
  • Sees FY15 EPS between $1.23-1.29 (Prior $1.24-1.30).

9:02 am RXi Pharma and MirImmune LLC enter into an exclusive licensing agreement for RXi's self-delivering RNAi (sd-rxRNA) technology to develop cell-based immunotherapies to treat cancer (RXII) :

  • Co announced that they have entered into an exclusive license agreement to RXi's novel and proprietary sd-rxRNA technology for use in developing innovative cell-based cancer immunotherapies.
  • The collaboration has the potential to result in novel, more effective and patient friendly cancer treatments that could be a significant step toward personalized medicine.
  • Under the terms of the agreement, MirImmune will be responsible for all research, development, manufacturing, regulatory and commercialization activities for the licensed products.
  • It will develop cell-based therapeutics utilizing RXi's sd-rxRNA technology to target immune inhibitory pathways (checkpoints) which are responsible for limiting the efficacy of cancer immunotherapies. According to the terms, MirImmune will gain access to RXi's sd-rxRNA and rxRNAori patent families for ex vivo modification of cells for the treatment of cancer.

9:01 am Northwest Biotherapeutics reports longer than expected surviva in patients treated with DCVax-L (NWBO) : Co announced that Dr. Marnix Bosch, the Company's Chief Technical Officer, presented encouraging survival data on 51 Glioblastoma multiforme (:GBM) brain cancer patients treated with DCVax-L.

  • The data showed substantially longer than expected survival in patients with apparent early progression (recurrence) of their cancer, including patients with such aggressive cancer that the tumor was already re-growing by the end of 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy after surgical removal of the original tumor.

9:00 am Hospira presents two studies that support an evaluation of biosimilarity of its proposed biosimilar, Epoetin Hospira, compared to the reference product, Amgen's (AMGN) EPOGEN (HSP) : Both randomized, open-label, active-controlled studies evaluated the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic equivalence of proposed biosimilar Epoetin Hospira compared to Amgen's reference product, EPOGEN (epoetin alfa), administered by subcutaneous injection in healthy volunteers.

  • One study evaluated a single dose of 100 Units/kg, and the other study evaluated multiple doses of 100 Units/kg administered three times per week for a total of four weeks. The studies included measuring the effect of well-established PD clinical markers of reticulocyte count and hemoglobin, which were equivalent between Epoetin Hospira and EPOGEN in both studies. These markers were selected because they are directly reflective of the mechanism of action of epoetin alfa and, based on literature, are known to directly correlate with clinical effects.

9:00 am Microvision has received an $8 mln license fee payment from its Fortune Global 100 partner (MVIS) : The up-front license fee is part of a multi-year license agreement MicroVision announced earlier this month with its Fortune Global 100 partner for MicroVision PicoP display technology

8:56 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust (WHLR) announced that it has entered into a contract to acquire Washington Square, a 261,566 square foot shopping center located in Washington, North Carolina. The Company will purchase the Property for $20.0 million, or approximately $76.46 per square foot, using a combination of cash and debt.
  • Quanta Services (PWR) announced that Maurepas Pipeline, LLC, a subsidiary of SemGroup Corporation (SEMG), selected Quanta Services for the Maurepas Pipelines Project. Construction is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2015 and completion is expected in the third quarter of 2016.
  • Midway Gold (MDW) announced the celebration of the completion of a first gold pour yesterday at the Pan Mine in White Pine County, Nevada. Pan is the Company's first producing mine and has advanced from permitting through construction in just over three years. Yesterday, 20 days after the introduction of cyanide, we poured approximately 100 ounces while commissioning the refinery. As previously indicated, our first production-scale pour, is still scheduled for Monday, March 30th.

8:56 am S&P futures vs fair value: -1.10. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -0.60. (:WRAPX) : The S&P 500 futures trade one point below fair value.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed again on Friday with Japan's Nikkei (-1.0%) a notable standout to the downside following a large batch of economic data that included weaker than expected retail sales and inflation data. China's Shanghai Composite (+0.2%) registered a modest gain but increased 2.0% for the week.

  • In economic data: 
    • Japan's February National CPI +2.2% year-over-year (prior 2.4%) while Core CPI +2.0% (consensus 2.1%; last 2.2%). Tokyo CPI +2.3% year-over-year (last 2.3%) while Tokyo Core CPI +2.2%, as expected. Separately, February Retail Sales -1.8% year-over-year (consensus -1.5%; last -2.0%) and February Household Spending -2.9% year-over-year (expected -3.2%; prior -5.1%). Lastly, the Unemployment Rate slipped to 3.5% from 3.6%, as expected. 
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  • Japan's Nikkei declined 1.0% following a large batch if economic data that included weaker than expected retail sales and inflation data. Losses were registered in all sectors with the basic materials (-1.6%), industrial (-1.4%), and technology (-1.2%) sectors pacing the declines. Advantest Corp (-5.1%), Marubeni Corp (-5.0%), and Nippon Yusen KK (-4.9%) topped the list of decliners while Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co (+3.3%), Panasonic Corp (+3.2%), and Unitika Ltd (+1.9%) led the winners. Out of the 225 index members, 32 ended higher, 191 finished lower, and 2 were unchanged. The Nikkei declined 1.4% for the week. 
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended Friday flat with gains in the financial (+0.6%) and diversified (+0.3%) sectors helping to offset losses in the consumer non-cyclical (-1.0%) sector. China Resources Land Ltd (+5.0%), China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd (+3.5%), and Sino Land Co (+1.5%) were the best-performing stocks while Lenovo Group (-1.8%), Hengan Intl (-1.7%), and China Mobile (-1.3%) were the worst-performing issues. Out of the 50 index members, 29 ended higher, 18 finished lower, and 3 were unchanged. The Hang Seng increased 0.5% for the week. 
  • China's Shanghai Composite increased 0.2% despite a report showing industrial profits declined 4.2% in the first two months of the year versus last year. Reuters reports that was the largest drop for the period since early 2012. Real estate issues were among the leaders on Friday. For the week, the Shanghai Composite gained 2.0%.
Major European indices are mixed with France's CAC (+0.3%) trading ahead of its peers. Elsewhere, German Finance Ministry spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said her office has yet to receive an updated list of reforms from Greek officials and that all proposed reforms will need to be 'quantifiable.'
  • Participants received several data points: 
    • Germany's February Import Price Index +1.4% month-over-month (expected 0.7%; last -0.8%); -3.0% year-over-year (expected -3.5%; prior -4.4%) 
    • UK's March Nationwide HPI +0.1% month-over-month (last -0.1%); +5.1% year-over-year (previous 5.7%) 
    • French Consumer Confidence rose to 93 from 92, as expected 
    • Italy's January Retail Sales +0.1% month-over-month, as expected. Industrial Sales -1.6% month-over-month (previous 1.4%) and Industrial New Orders -3.6% month-over-month (prior 4.5%) 
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  • UK's FTSE is lower by 0.5% with miners leading the decline. Anglo American, Glencore, Randgold Resources, and Rio Tinto are down between 2.1% and 2.7%. Consumer names outperform with InterContinental Hotels, Barratt Developments, and Compass Group up between 1.0% and 2.7%. 
  • Germany's DAX has added 0.2% with help from most components. Adidas leads with a gain of 4.9% amid upbeat analyst commentary. Utilities lag with E.On and RWE both down near 1.0%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades higher by 0.3% with consumer names and financials in the lead. Pernod Ricard, Essilor International, AXA, and BNP Paribas hold gains between 1.1% and 2.6%. Steelmaker ArcelorMittal is the weakest performer, down 2.7%.

8:55 am Oi SA reports Q4 revenue falls 1.7% YoY to R$ 7,323; co also reported a net loss of R$ (87) vs R$ 52 mln in the prior year's quarter (OIBR) : Consolidated net revenues amounted to R$ 7,323 million in 4Q14, a 5.1% increase over 3Q14. This performance was driven by net revenues in Brazilian operations, which totaled R$ 7,064 million (+4.8% q.o.q), mainly due to Personal Mobility, particularly customer revenues, which increased almost 10% over the previous quarter, due to the significant improvement in recharges and solid data growth.

In 4Q14, routine EBITDA reached R$ 1,836 million, of which R$ 1,689 million comes from Brazilian operations, presenting a sequential increase of 7.4%. This performance confirms the inflection point in 3Q14 and drives Oi towards the operational turnaround.

8:49 am Nordic American Offshore has expanded its current credit facility with DNB Bank ASA and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (NAO) : The credit facility has been increased from of $60 million to $150 million with maturity in 2020. At this time $35 million have been drawn.

8:39 am European Markets Update: FTSE -0.5%, DAX +0.1%, CAC +0.3% (:SUMRX) : Major European indices are mixed with France's CAC (+0.3%) trading ahead of its peers. Elsewhere, German Finance Ministry spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said her office has yet to receive an updated list of reforms from Greek officials and that all proposed reforms will need to be 'quantifiable.'

  • Participants received several data points: 
    • Germany's February Import Price Index +1.4% month-over-month (expected 0.7%; last -0.8%); -3.0% year-over-year (expected -3.5%; prior -4.4%) 
    • UK's March Nationwide HPI +0.1% month-over-month (last -0.1%); +5.1% year-over-year (previous 5.7%) 
    • French Consumer Confidence rose to 93 from 92, as expected 
    • Italy's January Retail Sales +0.1% month-over-month, as expected. Industrial Sales -1.6% month-over-month (previous 1.4%) and Industrial New Orders -3.6% month-over-month (prior 4.5%) 
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  • UK's FTSE is lower by 0.5% with miners leading the decline. Anglo American, Glencore, Randgold Resources, and Rio Tinto are down between 2.1% and 2.7%. Consumer names outperform with InterContinental Hotels, Barratt Developments, and Compass Group up between 1.0% and 2.7%. 
  • Germany's DAX has added 0.1% with help from most components. Adidas leads with a gain of 4.9% amid upbeat analyst commentary. Utilities lag with E.On and RWE both down near 1.0%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades higher by 0.3% with consumer names and financials in the lead. Pernod Ricard, Essilor International, AXA, and BNP Paribas hold gains between 1.1% and 2.6%. Steelmaker ArcelorMittal is the weakest performer, down 2.7%.

8:32 am Visteon has received all antitrust approvals required for the previously announced sale of its ~70% ownership interest in Halla Visteon Climate Control Corp; also enters into waiver and amendment of credit agreement (VC) :

  • Following completion of the transaction, Visteon intends to return between $2.5 bln and $2.75 bln of cash to its shareholders through a structured series of actions including share buybacks and a special distribution, which could include a large return of capital as a primary component, minimizing taxes for shareholders. 
  • Co expects the transaction to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2015.

8:32 am LiveDeal announces its consumer products are now available on Amazon (AMZN); were no additional costs to the Company to gain this access (LIVE) :  

8:31 am Delcath announces the reporting of data from a single -center experience utilizing its Melphalan Hydrochloride for Injection with the Delcath Hepatic Delivery System and other locoregional therapies in a poster presentation (DCTH) : In this retrospective study of 30 patients with cutaneous or uveal melanoma that metastasized to the liver, investigators evaluated outcomes on hepatic progression free survival (:HPFS), progression free survival (PFS) and overall survival (:OS) following treatment with yttrium-90 (Y90), chemoembolization (CE) or percutaneous hepatic perfusion (:PHP). 

  • The study showed a significant difference in median HPFS with 54 days for patients treated with Y90, 80 days for patients treated with CE and 310 days for those treated with PHP (p=0.002).  MVA showed improved HPFS for PHP versus Y90 (p=0.001) and for PHP versus CE (p=0.008), but not for CE versus Y90 (p=0.44).  Median OS from time of treatment was longest for PHP at 736 days versus Y90 285 days and CE 265 days; however it did not reach statistical significance. There was a significant difference on MVA of OS for PHP versus Y90 (p = 0.03) but not for PHP versus CE (p=0.37) or CE versus Y90 (0.06).

8:31 am Flamel announces positive results of a first-in-man clinical trial with LiquiTime Guaifenesin; plans to perform a pivotal study in 20 (FLML) :

  • Co conducted a 16-subject four-way crossover pharmacokinetic study evaluating three different BID (twice-daily) formulations of LiquiTime guaifenesin against immediate release guaifenesin tablets dosed every 4 hours. The trial was intended to provide sufficient data for the Company to choose the best prototype to move forward into a pivotal study. While none of the prototype formulations in this relatively small pilot study exactly satisfied all of the criteria necessary for proving bioequivalence of AUC (Area Under the Curve) to the immediate release guaifenesin tablets under U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (:FDA) requirements, the results clearly met the intention of the study.
  • The chosen formulation will be optimized and scaled up over the coming months and Flamel plans to perform a pivotal study in 2016. There were no safety issues raised during the study. LiquiTime is protected by the Company's intellectual property through late 2025 in the United States and through early 2023 in Europe.

8:31 am S&P futures vs fair value: -0.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +2.90. (:WRAPX) : The S&P 500 futures trade within a point of fair value.

The third estimate of fourth quarter GDP pointed to an expansion of 2.2%, while the Briefing.com consensus expected a reading of 2.4%. Meanwhile, the third quarter GDP Deflator was left unchanged at 0.1%, as expected.

8:31 am Central Pacific Financial: shareholders ACMO-CF and Carlyle Financial Services announce the pricing of their ~7.60 mln share secondary offering; expecting proceeds of $75 mln and closing on or about April 1, 2015 (CPF) :  

8:29 am Gapping down (:SCANX) : Gapping down
In reaction to disappointing earnings/guidance
: NLST -5.8%, GME -4.2%, RH -3.7%, REED -3.6%, GEVO -1.5%

Select metals/mining stocks trading lower: AU -2.1%, RIO -1.7%, HMY -1.6%, BHP -1%, VALE -1%

Select oil/gas related names showing early weakness: SDRL -2.7%, SSL -2.2%, RIG -1.6%, STO -1.2%, TOT -1%

Other news: APDN -6.1% (intends to offer shares of common stock and warrants to purchase common stock in an underwritten public offering), TPVG -5.3% (announces public offering of 6.5 mln shares of common stock), NBG -3.8% (rumors last night that Greek Fin Min to resign, later refuted), CWEI -2.3% (announced that Mel G. Riggs has succeeded Clayton W. Williams, Jr. as President, effective immediately), SRC -1.4% (appointed Phil Joseph as Chief Financial Officer; current CFO, Michael A. Bender, to become Chief Accounting Officer), JMI -1.4% (declared a monthly dividend of $0.09/share vs. prior dividend of $0.12/share)

Analyst comments: AEO -4.3% (downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman), MT -3.1% (downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup), DIOD -2.4% (downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James), MSCI -1.4% (downgraded to Underperform from Mkt Perform at Keefe Bruyette), DFT -1.3% (initiated with a Sell at Goldman), WCC -1.1% (downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird), EMC -1% (downgraded to Sector Perform at Pacific Crest), GLNG -0.9% (downgraded to Hold at Nordea)

8:27 am Gapping up (:SCANX) : Gapping up
In reaction to strong earnings/guidance
: VJET +12.8%, STRI +12%, NERV +11.9%, OXM +11.7%, (also authorized the Company's management to pursue a sale of the Ben Sherman business), OGXI +5%, FINL +4.4%, DGSE +4.3%, MARA +3.2%, BBRY +3.2%, NVEE +3.1%

M&A news: OLN +22.1% (Dow Chemical (DOW) announces spinoff of chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses to combine with Olin Corporation (OLN); transaction is valued at $5 billion),BMRN +9.7% (renewed M&A speculation following Betaville blog post, UBS tgt raise),DOW +5.2% (Dow Chemical (DOW) announces spinoff of chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses to combine with Olin Corporation (OLN); transaction is valued at $5 billion)

Select large pharma names showing strength: SNY +2.1%, NVO +1.7%, GSK +0.9%


Other news: OREX +10.5% (following yday's announcement of approval for marketing Mysimba in Europe to treat obesity),GLOB +3.8% (still checking),DF +2.4% (entered into a new $450 mln senior secured revolving credit facility),VOD +1.5% (Vodafone PLC and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited announced a new Partner Market agreement for Botswana),ED +1.1% (modest rebound following late sell-off on reports of gas explosion),NXPI +0.7% (NXP Semi, B.M. Holding and Digital China sign strategic cooperation agreement for Shanghai Smart City Project)

Analyst comments: ESPR +4.4% (assumed with a Buy at Citigroup),CONN +3.6% (upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray),ICPT +2.8% (target raised to $400 from $300 at Deutsche Bank),YHOO +1.6% (initiated with a Overweight at Morgan Stanley, also disclosed its Board approved an additional $2 bln share repurchase program),FB +0.5% (target raised to $98 from $88 at Barclays)

8:17 am Abengoa and EIG Global Energy Partners have signed the Investment and Contribution Agreement, reaching therefore the final Abengoa Projects Warehouse 1 agreement to finance the construction of the projects that will be transferred to APW-1 (ABGB) : As part of the transaction, the newly formed company, APW-1, will acquire a portfolio of selected Abengoa projects under construction, including renewable and conventional power generation and power transmission assets in different geographies including Mexico, Brazil and Chile. The projects will be acquired progressively, with the first such projects expected to be Atacama I & II (STE and PV) in Chile, A3T and A4T in M xico, and a participation in the Brazilian T&D lines.

  • To this end, APW-1's initial equity commitment will be in the range of US$2 billion, of which 55% will be invested by EIG managed funds ($1.1 billion), and the remaining 45% by Abengoa.
  • Abengoa and EIG will undertake further discussions regarding the possibility of both Abengoa and EIG-managed funds jointly providing additional investment funding, not to exceed US$500 million, to facilitate APW-1's acquisition of additional projects, subject to Abengoa and EIG agreeing on mutually acceptable investment terms.

8:10 am Merus Labs appoints new director and provides European update (MSLI) : The co announced that Dr. Robert Bloch M.D. will join the Board of Directors effective today. Merus also announced that Dr. Ulrich Schoeberl, Head of European Operations will be leaving on April 30, 2015.

8:02 am SLI Inc announces the launch of a modified dutch auction tender offer to repurchase up to $20 million of its common shares within a price range between $39 to $42/share (SLI) : The maximum number of shares proposed to be purchased in the tender offer represents approximately 12.6% of the Company's outstanding shares.The tender offer will be funded through available cash and borrowings under our co's credit facility

8:02 am Concord Medical Services announced the acquisition of Fortis Surgical Hospital in Singapore for SGD 55 mln in cash (CCM) :

  • Co announced the signing of a purchase agreement under which Concord Medical Services (International) Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, agreed to acquire the Fortis Surgical Hospital from Fortis Healthcare International Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Fortis Healthcare Ltd (Fortis).
  • The acquisition will be a 100% cash transaction, for a consideration of SGD55 million (USD39.8 million*), and has been approved by the Boards of both parties. Concord Medical expects to close the deal on or about April 6th, 2015.
  • Translation of Singapore dollar amount into U.S. dollar amount is made at a rate of SGD1.3823 to US$1.00.

8:01 am Stewart Info announces the nomination of James Chadwick as a new independent director at Stewart's 2015 Annual Meeting; Bulldog Investors withdraws proxy solicitation for 2015 annual meeting (STC) : Mr. Chadwick will be nominated together with four incumbent directors to be elected by holders of the Common Stock at the Annual Meeting.

  • In connection with Mr. Chadwick's appointment, Stewart has entered into an agreement with Bulldog Investors LLC, which owns approximately 1.16 million shares of Stewart common stock, representing approximately 5.0% of the Company's outstanding shares. Under the agreement, Bulldog Investors has agreed not to solicit proxies in connection with the 2015 Annual Meeting and to vote its shares for the Board's director nominees and for the Company's "say-on-pay" proposal at the Annual Meeting. Bulldog Investors has also agreed to a customary standstill provision.

8:01 am Revett Minerals to be acquired by Hecla Mining (HL) in $20 mln stock deal (RVM) : In the proposed merger, each outstanding common share of Revett will be exchanged for 0.1622 of a common share of Hecla. Based on Hecla's closing price of $3.23 on March 25, 2015 (the day prior to signing the agreement) this represents a 32% premium to Revett's 20 day VWAP (volume weighted average price) through March 25, 2015.

  • Following closing of the merger, Hecla intends to continue to advance permitting of the Rock Creek project. Located in Northwest Montana, Rock Creek is considered one of the largest undeveloped silver and copper deposits in North America. Revett has reported inferred resources of 229 million ounces of silver and 2.0 billion pounds of copper.

8:00 am Interval Leisure Group subsidiary Interval Acquisition Corp announces offering of $300 million of senior notes due 2023 (IILG) : The notes will be guaranteed on a senior, unsecured basis by ILG and certain of its other domestic subsidiaries. Co intends to use the net proceeds from the offering to repay indebtedness outstanding under its senior secured revolving credit facility.

8:00 am Wuxi Pharmatech reports Investigational New Drug Application for Wuxi Medimmune's monoclonal antibody accepted for review by CFDA (WX) : Co announced today that an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for WuXi MedImmune's novel anti-IL6 monoclonal antibody for rheumatoid arthritis has been accepted for review by the China Food and Drug Administration (:CFDA). The IND application has now been entered into the system of the CFDA for technical review.

8:00 am NephroGenex announces positive results on preclinical studies that evaluate Pyridorin (NRX) : The data are being presented today at the National Kidney Foundation's 2015 Spring Clinical Meetings. The study showed that treatment with Pyridorin significantly reduced the severity of acute kidney injury in a model of ischemia reperfusion, which emulates the AKI that can result following cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. Pyridorin treatment was also to enhance renal function recovery, and reduce post-injury fibrosis. Treatment with a higher dose of Pyridorin was shown to be even more beneficial.

7:56 am S&P futures vs fair value: +0.40. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +4.40. (:WRAPX) : U.S. equity futures trade near their flat lines amid mixed action overseas. The S&P 500 futures hover within a point of fair value and the benchmark index will enter today's session down 2.5% for the week.

Meanwhile, the Dollar Index (97.48, +0.04) is working on its second consecutive advance with the greenback adding 0.2% against the euro (1.0850).

Treasuries sport slim gains with the 10-yr yield lower by a basis point at 1.98%.

The third estimate of Q4 GDP will be released at 8:30 ET (Briefing.com consensus 2.4%) while the final reading of the Michigan Sentiment Index for March (consensus 92.0) will cross the wires at 10:00 ET.

In U.S. corporate news of note:

  • Blackberry (BBRY 9.20, -0.10): -1.1% after beating bottom-line estimates on light revenue. 
  • Finish Line (FINL 26.00, +2.06): +8.6% in reaction to better than expected results and cautious guidance. 
  • Gamestop (GME 36.79, -2.00): -5.2% after missing estimates and guiding below analyst estimates. 
  • Restoration Hardware (RH 89.00, -4.14): -4.4% after cautious revenue guidance overshadowed a one-cent beat.
Reviewing overnight developments:
  • Asian markets ended mixed. China's Shanghai Composite +0.2%, Japan's Nikkei -1.0%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended flat. 
    • In economic data: 
      • Japan's February National CPI +2.2% year-over-year (prior 2.4%) while Core CPI +2.0% (consensus 2.1%; last 2.2%). Tokyo CPI +2.3% year-over-year (last 2.3%) while Tokyo Core CPI +2.2%, as expected. Separately, February Retail Sales -1.8% year-over-year (consensus -1.5%; last -2.0%) and February Household Spending -2.9% year-over-year (expected -3.2%; prior -5.1%). Lastly, the Unemployment Rate slipped to 3.5% from 3.6%, as expected. 
    • In news: 
      • Japan's Nationwide CPI came in at an 11-month low, and showed no growth when adjusting for last April's sales tax increase.
  • Major European indices are mixed. Germany's DAX +0.6%, France's CAC +0.6%, and UK's FTSE -0.3%. Elsewhere, Italy's MIB +0.1% and Spain's IBEX +0.1%. 
    • Participants received several data points: 
      • Germany's February Import Price Index +1.4% month-over-month (expected 0.7%; last -0.8%); -3.0% year-over-year (expected -3.5%; prior -4.4%) 
      • UK's March Nationwide HPI +0.1% month-over-month (last -0.1%); +5.1% year-over-year (previous 5.7%) 
      • French Consumer Confidence rose to 93 from 92, as expected 
      • Italy's January Retail Sales +0.1% month-over-month, as expected. Industrial Sales -1.6% month-over-month (previous 1.4%) and Industrial New Orders -3.6% month-over-month (prior 4.5%) 
    • Among news of note: 
      • German Finance Ministry spokeswoman Marianne Kothe said her office has yet to receive an updated list of reforms from Greek officials and that all proposed reforms will need to be 'quantifiable.'

7:55 am Mallinckrodt plc reports positive outcomes with H.P. Acthar Gel in proteinuria in nephrotic syndrome reported at National Kidney Foundation Spring Congress (MNK) : Co reported two separate presentations by independent1 physicians of real-world cases demonstrating positive outcomes with H.P. Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection) in the remission of proteinuria, or excess protein in the urine, due to nephrotic syndrome (NS) associated with certain rare but serious kidney disorders. The physicians presented their findings at the 2015 Spring Clinical Meetings of the National Kidney Foundation (:NKF), March 25-29.

The first presentation on a retrospective case series included outcomes of nine patients from different medical practices diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, membranous lupus nephritis or minimal change disease. After treatment with Acthar for at least six months, nearly 80% (7/9) of the patients showed proteinuria reduction of 30% or more from baseline, ranging from 36.4% to 99.4%.

Two patients had a complete response, four had a partial response, and one had a clinically meaningful response, as measured by criteria from the American Society of Nephrology. Treatment with Acthar was well tolerated; one patient had an early termination of treatment due to weight gain and hypertension.

7:23 am Surgical Care Affiliates announces pricing of secondary public offering of 7 mln shares of common stock at $33.25/share (SCAI) : The offering by parties that include certain affiliates of TPG Global, LLC and certain directors and officers of SCA, is expected to occur on April 1, 2015. 

7:11 am Finish Line beats by $0.03, reports revs in-line; guides FY16 EPS below estimates with comps towards high end; adds to buyback (FINL) : Reports Q4 (Feb) earnings of $0.88 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.03 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $0.85; revenues rose 6.2% year/year to $551.3 mln vs the $551.18 mln consensus. 

  • Comparable store sales increased 2.6%. 
Finish Line expects comparable store sales to be up in the low single to mid single digit range (consensus up nearly 3%) and EPS to increase in the low single to mid single digit range over fiscal year 2015 non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $1.67 (vs. $1.82 consensus, or +9%).
  • The Board has authorized a new 5 million share repurchase plan. The new plan will commence upon completion of the current plan which has 1.2 million shares remaining.

7:08 am BlackBerry beats by $0.08, misses on revs with 1.3 mln smartphones; reaffirms target for FY16 non-GAAP profitability (shares halted -- will resume at 7:30 ET) (BBRY) : Reports Q4 (Feb) earnings of $0.04 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.08 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of ($0.04); revenues fell 32.4% year/year to $660 mln vs the $778.38 mln consensus. 

  • The revenue breakdown for the quarter was ~42% for hardware, 47% for services and 10% for software. 
  • During the fourth quarter, the Company recognized hardware revenue on ~1.3 mln BlackBerry smartphones. ~1.6 mln BlackBerry smartphones were sold through to end customers (Street ests near ~1.9 mln), with an ASP of $211 compared to $180 in the previous quarter. 
  • Non-GAAP gross margin of 48.3%, with a third consecutive quarter of positive hardware gross margin. 
  • Outlook: The Company continues to anticipate positive free cash flow. The Company is expanding its distribution capability, and expects traction from these efforts to manifest some time in fiscal 2016. The company continues to target sustainable non-GAAP profitability some time in fiscal 2016.

7:04 am Ohr Pharma announces topline results from the exploratory Phase II IMPACT study evaluating OHR-102 combination therapy for the treatment of the wet form of age-related macular degeneration; primary endpoint was not meaningfully different (OHRP) : In the intent-to-treat population with classic containing choroidal neovascularization (OHR-102 n=38, Lucentis monotherapy n=32), 42% of the patients receiving OHR-102 achieved a =3 line gain at nine months, as compared to 28% in the Lucentis monotherapy group. Less of a benefit was seen in the overall population (classic containing and occult only CNV lesions).

  • The classic containing CNV population represents approximately two thirds of the total wet-AMD population. The positive effect on visual acuity in classic CNV was seen early in the course of treatment and continued to increase through the end of the study, supporting the planned Phase III development program.
  • In patients with classic CNV (ITT-LOCF), mean gains in visual acuity were +10.5 letters for the OHR-102 combination arm and +5.4 letters with Lucentis monotherapy, a clinically meaningful benefit of +5.1 letters. The mean number of injections between the treatment arms, the primary endpoint of the study, was not meaningfully different.
  • "We believe the final data from the IMPACT study demonstrates a positive and clinically meaningful treatment effect of OHR-102 combination therapy in classic containing CNV. This benefit is consistent with the mechanism of OHR-102 and historical combination therapy studies."

7:02 am Quiksilver announces executive leadership appointments to Chairman, CEO, President and CFO positions (ZQK) : Effective immediately, co announced that:

  • Pierre Agnes, President of Quiksilver has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Andy Mooney who is no longer with the company. 
  • Greg Healy, Quiksilver's APAC Region President, has been promoted to President 
  • Bob McKnight has been appointed Chairman.
  • Thomas Chambolle, Quiksilver's EMEA Region Chief Financial Officer, will be promoted to CFO

7:02 am Olin: Dow Chemical (DOW) announces spinoff of chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses to combine with Olin Corporation (OLN); transaction is valued at $5 billion (OLN) :

  • Dow announces it will separate a significant portion of its chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses and merge them with Olin (OLN) in a tax-efficient Reverse Morris Trust transaction that creates an industry leader with revenues approaching $7 billion;
  • The transaction is valued at $5 billion, and includes $2.0 billion of cash and cash equivalents to be paid to Dow; an estimated $2.2 billion in Olin common stock using the Olin stock value as of close on March 25, 2015; and approximately $800 million of assumption of pension and other liabilities.
  • Olin expects to achieve annualized cost synergies of a minimum of $200 million, which are anticipated to be fully realized within 36 months.
  • Transaction is highly accretive to Dow and Dow shareholders, with a tax efficient consideration of $5 billion, and a taxable equivalent value of $8 billion.

7:00 am Biogen announces that the European Medicines Agency has validated its marketing authorisation application for ZINBRYTA to treat forms of multiple sclerosis (BIIB) : Validation confirms that the submission is complete and signifies the initiation of the review process by the EMA's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use

7:00 am Trillium Therapeutics announces appointment of Eric Sievers, M.D. to Chief Medical Officer (TRIL) : Sievers most recently served as Senior Vice President, Clinical Development at Seattle Genetics

6:58 am Asian Markets Close: Japan's Nikkei -1.0%; Hong Kong's Hang Seng flat; China's Shanghai Composite +0.2% (:SUMRX) : Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed again on Friday with Japan's Nikkei (-1.0%) a notable standout to the downside following a large batch of economic data that included weaker than expected retail sales and inflation data. China's Shanghai Composite (+0.2%) registered a modest gain but increased 2.0% for the week.

Economic data

  • Japan
    • February Household Spending +0.8% month-over-month (expected +0.5%; prior -0.3%; -2.9% year-over-year (expected -3.2%; prior -5.1%)
    • February Retail Sales -1.8% year-over-year (expected -1.5%; prior -2.0%)
    • February Unemployment Rate 3.5% (expected 3.5%; prior 3.6%)
    • February Jobs/Applications Ratio 1.15 (expected 1.15; prior 1.14)
    • February National CPI +2.2% year-over-year (prior +2.4%); National Core CPI +2.0% year-over-year (expected +2.1%; prior +2.2%)
    • March Tokyo CPI +2.3% year-over-year (prior +2.3%); Tokyo Core CPI +2.2% year-over-year (expected +2.2%; prior +2.2%)
Equity Markets
  • Japan's Nikkei declined 1.0% following a large batch if economic data that included weaker than expected retail sales and inflation data. Losses were registered in all sectors with the basic materials (-1.6%), industrial (-1.4%), and technology (-1.2%) sectors pacing the declines. Advantest Corp (-5.1%), Marubeni Corp (-5.0%), and Nippon Yusen KK (-4.9%) topped the list of decliners while Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co (+3.3%), Panasonic Corp (+3.2%), and Unitika Ltd (+1.9%) led the winners. Out of the 225 index members, 32 ended higher, 191 finished lower, and 2 were unchanged. The Nikkei declined 1.4% for the week.
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended Friday flat with gains in the financial (+0.6%) and diversified (+0.3%) sectors helping to offset losses in the consumer non-cyclical (-1.0%) sector. China Resources Land Ltd (+5.0%), China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd (+3.5%), and Sino Land Co (+1.5%) were the best-performing stocks while Lenovo Group (-1.8%), Hengan Intl (-1.7%), and China Mobile (-1.3%) were the worst-performing issues. Out of the 50 index members, 29 ended higher, 18 finished lower, and 3 were unchanged. The Hang Seng increased 0.5% for the week.
  • China's Shanghai Composite increased 0.2% despite a report showing industrial profits declined 4.2% in the first two months of the year versus last year. Reuters reports that was the largest drop for the period since early 2012. Real estate issues were among the leaders on Friday. For the week, the Shanghai Composite gained 2.0%.
  • India's Sensex ended Friday unchanged with strength in the industrial (+2.2%) and technology (+0.7%) sectors offset by weakness in the energy (-1.3%) and consumer non-cyclical (-1.2%) sectors. Top gainers included Hindalco Industries (+3.4%), State Bank of India (+2.9%), Larsen & Toubro (+2.9%) and Infosys (+2.6%). Bharti Airtel (-4.9%), Reliance Industries (-2.3%), ITC Ltd (-1.6%), and Tata Power Co (-1.5%) paced the decliners. For the week, the Sensex declined 2.8%.
  • Australia's S&P/ASX 200 increased 0.7%, finishing near its highs for the day. The utilities (+2.7%), consumer staples (+1.7%), and consumer discretionary (+1.5%) sectors led the way. For the week, the S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.9%.
  • Regional advancers: Singapore +0.5%, Indonesia +0.5%, Philippines +0.1%
  • Regional decliners: Taiwan -1.2%, South Korea -0.1%, Malaysia -0.3%, Thailand -0.1%, Vietnam -0.9%
FX
  • USD/CNY +0.06% at 6.2152
  • USD/INR -0.6% at 62.535
  • USD/JPY +0.2% at 119.37

6:50 am Aviva and Friends Life Group Limited reached an agreement on the terms of a recommended all-share acquisition of Friends Life Group Limited by Aviva (AV) : Aviva and Friends Life announced that each company's shareholders have approved the recommended all-share acquisition of Friends Life by Aviva. The proposed acquisition received European Commission clearance on 13 March 2015 and was approved by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority on 17 March 2015.It is expected that, if the Guernsey Court sanctions the Scheme on 10 April 2015, the transaction will complete on 13 April 2015.

6:17 am Royal Bank of Scotland disposes of its internationally managed Private Banking and Wealth Management business. (RBS) : Co announced it has reached an agreement to sell its internationally managed Private Banking and Wealth Management business to Union Bancaire Priv e UBP SA.  

  • The sale comprises client relationships outside the British Isles and associated staff. 
  • RBS will continue to service UK Private Banking and Wealth Management client needs, together with those of international clients with a strong connection to the UK, from the British Isles through its Coutts and Adam & Company brands. 

6:08 am Sociedad Quimica y Minera sends letter to the Superintendence of Securities and Insurance in response to a request for information (SQM) : In the letter, the Company informed some of the following, most of which has previously been disclosed:

  • The Company has identified invoices that were issued by third parties and paid by SQM during fiscal years 2009 through 2014, the payment of which could be questioned by the Chilean Internal Revenue Service (Servicio de Impuestos Internos or "SII") for not having sufficient supporting documentation in order to qualify as necessary to generate revenue. The total amount of all of such invoices for this six-year period is approximately US$11 million. As a result, SQM has voluntarily approached the SII in order to amend the annual tax returns corresponding to those years. The SII is currently evaluating such amendments.
  • Mr. Patricio Contesse G.'s failure to provide an explanation to justify such services and payments and the lack of the respective supporting documentation influenced the termination of the employment contract between Mr. Contesse and the Company. As justification for the aforementioned failure to provide an explanation, Mr. Contesse cited his right to remain silent in order to not incriminate himself.
  • The Company has not been served in relation to the complaint or charges that have allegedly been filed by the SII, nor has the company been served in relation to civil lawsuits by shareholders in the United States of America seeking to establish a class action. The Company, however, assumes that such legal actions may in fact have been filed and is gathering the respective information. In the meantime, SQM has given instructions internally for all information that may be related to these matters to be properly safeguarded.

6:02 am Jiayuan.com announces that the special committee of the Board has retained Barclays Bank as its financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell as its legal counsel in connection with its review and evaluation of the previously announced non-binding 'going private' proposal letter (DATE) : The Board cautions the Company's shareholders and others considering trading in the Company's securities that no decisions have been made by the Special Committee with respect to the Company's response to the proposal and there can be no assurance that any definitive offer will be made, that any agreement will be executed or that this or any other transaction will be approved or consummated.

5:49 am S&P futures vs fair value: -4.30. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -4.50. :

5:49 am European Markets : FTSE...6878.48...-16.90...-0.30%.  DAX...11849.85...+6.20...+0.10%.

5:49 am Asian Markets : Nikkei...19285.63...-185.50...-1.00%.  Hang Seng...24486.20...-10.90...0.00%.

5:39 am First Interstate Bancsystem has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Montana-based Absarokee Bancorporation and its subsidiary, United Bank (FIBK) : With total assets of $74 million, Absarokee currently operates four United Bank branches in the Montana communities of Absarokee, Columbus and Laurel. This is First Interstate's second in-market acquisition in the last year and will provide a complementary market adjacent to First Interstate's Billings, Montana headquarters.

  • Subject to the terms and conditions of the definitive agreement, cash consideration for the acquisition will be approximately $7.2 million. First Interstate expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings per share.

5:32 am NXP Semi, B.M. Holding and Digital China sign strategic cooperation agreement for Shanghai Smart City Project (NXPI) : NXP Semiconductors announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese commercial real estate developer B.M. Holding Group and integrated IT service provider Digital China Holdings.

  • The Memorandum officially establishes the parties as strategic partners in the construction of a large-scale "smart" business district in the center of Shanghai, incorporating innovative wireless networking technology.
  • When construction completes on the new business district in 2017, it will represent a landmark complex that will help drive local economic development.

5:06 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • NTT Communications, the ICT solutions and international communications business within NTT (NTT) Group, announced that it has begun operating vending machines to sell "Prepaid SIM for Japan" cards for short-term business travelers and tourists in two locations in Japan-AQUA CITY ODAIBA and New Kansai International Airport-starting today. 
  • As part of Centrica Storage (CPYYY) assurance programme and as a responsible operator and given the age of the field and installation, CSL has decided to limit the maximum operating pressure of the Rough wells to 3000 psi. It is anticipated that this limitation will last up to 6 months
  • Avolon (AVOL) announced the delivery of an A321 aircraft to Philippine Airlines. The delivery is Avolon's sixth aircraft on lease to PAL, comprising five A320 family aircraft and one A330 aircraft. 

5:01 am Pretium Resources announces Brucejack Project receives British Columbia Environmental Assessment Approval (PVG) : Co announces announce that it has been issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate for its Brucejack Project by the British Columbia Minister of the Environment and Minister of Energy and Mines. 

  • The Ministers issued the certificate with conditions that have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures no significant adverse effects are likely to occur. 
  • Pretivm will address these conditions in advance of the start of mine construction which it expects to begin this summer. 

4:21 am Petrobras Brasileiro announces resignation of the Chairman and election of new Chairman of the Board (PBR) : Co informs that Guido Mantega resigned today from his position as member and Chairman of Petrobras Board of Directors. 

  • The Board of Directors, in a meeting also held today, approved, by majority vote, the election of Board member Mr. Luciano Galv o Coutinho as Chairman of the Board, replacing Mr. Guido Mantega.
  • The Board did not elect a new member.
  • Luciano Galv o Coutinho has been a member of Petrobras Board of Directors since April 2008. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Petrobras Distribuidora S.A. and has been the President of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development since April 2007. 

3:59 am Israel Chemical makes C$137M offer for Allana Potash shares (ICL) : ICL  announced that it entered into an arrangement agreement with Allana Potash Corp, a company that focuses on the acquisition and development of potash assets to acquire all the common shares of Allana. ICL currently holds 16.36% of Allana's shares which it acquired in 2014, and has offered to acquire all of the other outstanding common shares of Allana. The consideration offered to Allana shareholders is C$.50 per share, or ~C$137 million, and will be paid by ICL in cash and shares of ICL's common stock. 

3:40 am Nokia informs holdings of Dodge & Cox in Nokia Corporation is now below 5% (NOK) : According to information received by Nokia , the holdings of Dodge & Cox in Nokia have decreased below 5% of the total number of shares and voting rights of Nokia on March 25, 2015. 

3:17 am VimpelCom announces the exercise of a put option by holders of its ruble-denominated bonds due March 14, 2022 (VIP) : VimpelCom announces the exercise of a put option by holders of the 8.85% RUB 10 billion bonds (~$0.2 billion) due March 14, 2022 issued by OJSC VimpelCom. The Bonds were issued on March 26, 2012 with a 10-year maturity, subject to a put option in 3 years. Holders of the Bonds exercised the put option for a total amount of RUB 9.99 billion (~$0.2 billion) or 99% of the Bonds. 

2:29 am Relypsa presents sub-group analysis from Phase 3 study of Patiromer FOS in Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (RLYP) : Co announced that data from a Phase 3 clinical program showing that Patiromer for Oral Suspension, the Company's lead product candidate, was effective in reducing potassium levels and preventing a recurrence of hyperkalemia in patients with advanced chronic kidney disease receiving ongoing treatment with renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors were presented today as a poster at the National Kidney Foundation 2015 Spring Clinical Meeting. T

  • The Phase 3 OPAL-HK trial primary outcomes, previously published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were combined with results from Relypsa's broader clinical development program to support the Company's New Drug Application for Patiromer FOS. 
  • The FDA has assigned a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (:PDUFA) action date of October 21, 2015 for completion of the review of the NDA.

2:27 am Proteon Therapeutics Announces Positive Long-Term results from Phase 2 study of investigational new drug Vonapanitase in chronic kidney disease patients undergoing surgical creation of an Arteriovenous Fistula for Hemodialysis (PRTO) : Co announced positive results from a long-term analysis of more than three years of follow-up data from a Phase 2 study of its lead candidate, vonapanitase (formerly PRT-201). The study evaluated the safety and efficacy of vonapanitase, an investigational drug, in patients with chronic kidney disease undergoing surgical creation of an arteriovenous fistula for hemodialysis.

  • The Phase 2 multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study evaluated safety and efficacy of a single application of vonapanitase delivered immediately after surgical creation of an AVF. 
  • Data demonstrated a trend of prolonged primary patency, the study's primary endpoint, and a statistically significant improvement in the rate of corrective procedures, a secondary endpoint, over more than three years of follow-up for the 30 mcg vonapanitase dose as compared to placebo. 
  • An analysis of the results in the subset of patients receiving a radiocephalic AVF, which was not pre-specified, showed statistically significant improvements in primary patency, secondary patency (AVF survival) and the rate of corrective procedures over more than three years of follow-up for the 30 mcg vonapanitase dose as compared to placebo. 
  • A radiocephalic AVF is the preferred form of hemodialysis vascular access and is currently being studied in a Phase 3 clinical trial of vonapanitase.

2:23 am Chevron announces sale of interest in Caltex Australia (CVX) : Chevron's wholly owned subsidiary Chevron Global Energy announced that it has entered into an underwriting agreement for the sale of its 50% shareholding in Caltex Australia. It is expected that these shares will be sold to a broad range of Australian and global equity market institutional investors. The announcement does not alter Chevron's focus on moving the Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas projects towards start-up.

1:31 am GOL Linhas Areas Inteligentes reports domestic load factor reached 81.0% in 2015 and 77.1% in February 2015 (GOL) : Co announces its preliminary air traffic figures for February 2015. Comparisons refer to February 2014.

  • The domestic load factor totaled 81.0% in the first two months of 2015, 3.1 p.p. up on the same period last year. In February alone, we recorded a rate of 77.1%, 0,4 p.p. less than in February 2014. The rate in the last 12 months  (LTM) stood at  78.3%, an increase of 6.1 p.p. over the previous 12-month period. The fact that the Carnival holiday fell in February in 2015 and in March in 2014 impacted this indicator. 
  • Domestic demand in January and February 2015 increased by 8% over the same period in 2014. In February alone, there was a 2.9% year-on-year upturn, while the LTM figure grew by 6.5% over the previous 12 months.  
  • Domestic market supply increased by 3.9% in 2015 through February and 3.4% in February itself over the same periods last year, while LTM supply fell by 1.9% over the previous 12 months. 
  • International demand in the first two months of 2015 climbed by 25.1%, raising the load factor by 1.1 p.p. over the same period in 2014 to 73.9%, pushed by the 20.7% upturn in February itself. 
  • The number of passengers transported in the entire route network moved up by 4.8% year-on-year in the first two months of 2014, while the LTM number climbed by 11.9% over the 12 months through February 2014.

1:25 am Biglari Holdings: ISS rejects Groveland's attempt to take control of Biglari Holdings Board (BH) : Biglari Holdings I announced that Institutional Shareholder Services (:ISS) has recommended that Biglari Holdings' shareholders vote on the Company's BLUE proxy card and affirmatively reject Groveland Capital's attempt to gain control of the Biglari Holdings Board of Directors. 

  • In its report, ISS states that the dissident slate is "uncompelling, given a paucity of relevant operating or public board experience; an inadequately detailed plan for seamlessly managing the transition and minimizing unintended consequences should they succeed in ousting all incumbent directors, including the CEO; and a lead dissident who would be overboarded should he win election to this board. " 

1:21 am Saneamento Basico reports FY14 results (SBS) : Reports FY14 net income totaled R$ 903.0 million, 53.1% lower than R$ 1.9 billion recorded in 2013; net operating revenue, including construction revenue, reached R$ 11.2 billion; a 0.9% decrease compared to 2013. 

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