InPlay from Briefing.com

5:26 pm Bristol-Myers announces FDA approval Opdivo injection (BMY) : Co announced that the FDA approved Opdivo (nivolumab) injection, for intravenous use. Opdivo is a human programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) blocking antibody indicated for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following Yervoy (ipilimumab) and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor. This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and durability of response.  

4:59 pm Oragenics announces the exploration of strategic alternatives for its over-the counter probiotic business (OGEN) :  

4:56 pm LaSalle Hotel Properties announced that the underwriters of its recent follow-on public offering of common shares have exercised in full their option to purchase an additional 1,140,000 common shares, bringing the total number of shares to be issued in this offering to 8,740,000 common shares (LHO) :  

4:49 pm SunCoke Energy announces sale of its Harold Keene Coal Companies Unit to Omega Holdings for approximately $9.5 million (SXC) :  

4:42 pm Diplomat Pharmacy announced that it will stock Viekira Pak (DPLO) : Co announced that it will stock Viekira Pak (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir tablets; dasabuvir tablets), approved Dec. 19, 2014 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Viekira Pak is a treatment for genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C infection including those with compensated cirrhosis and will be available through open distribution.

4:42 pm EnCana announced it has reached an agreement with Veresen Midstream Limited Partnership to sell certain natural gas gathering and compression assets; Total cash consideration to Encana under the transaction is ~ C$412 mln (ECA) : The co announced  it has reached an agreement with Veresen Midstream Limited Partnership under which Encana and Cutbank Ridge Partnership will sell certain natural gas gathering and compression assets supporting Montney development in the Dawson area of northeastern British Columbia. Total cash consideration to Encana under the transaction is approximately C$412 million plus actual costs accrued in 2015.

  • Veresen Midstream will provide gathering and compression services to Encana and the CRP under a fee-for-service arrangement in a dedicated area of mutual interest within the Montney. Veresen Midstream has agreed to undertake up to C$5 billion of new midstream expansion to support development within the Montney, which is a strategic growth asset for Encana. Encana, along with the CRP, plans to invest between $600-700 mln in the play in 2015.

4:32 pm Hess announced that its Australian subsidiary, Hess Exploration Australia Pty, has signed a non-binding Letter of Intent with the North West Shelf to liquefy Equus Gas (HES) : Co announces that its Australian subsidiary, Hess Exploration Australia, has signed a non-binding Letter of Intent with the North West Shelf.

  • Hess intends to develop its natural gas discoveries in its deepwater permits offshore northwestern Australia and, subject to execution of binding agreements, toll the production through existing NWS processing and liquefaction facilities in Karratha, Australia. 
  • Hess would then market liquefied natural gas to customers in Asia Pacific. NWS is a joint venture between BHP Billiton Petroleum (North West Shelf), BP Developments Australia, Chevron Australia, Japan Australia LNG, Shell Australia and Woodside Energy Ltd. 
  • Hess and NWS plan to conduct joint engineering studies and further progress commercial discussions.

4:32 pm Points International sees FY14 at low end of range; expects to see growth in rev, gross margin and Adjusted EBITDA in 2015 (PCOM) :

  • "revenue and transactional activity during the fourth quarter has been adversely impacted by continued softness in Europe as well as reduced promotional activity among certain partners as they align consumer activity with the associated industry consolidation. As a result, we currently expect 2014 revenues and Adjusted EBITDA to be at the lower end of our guidance range for the year."
  • With the partnerships and products added throughout 2014, and the anticipated change in mix of certain partner contributions, management currently expects that it will continue to see growth in revenue, gross margin and Adjusted EBITDA in 2015. The Company will provide final results for the fourth quarter and full year 2014, as well as provide formal guidance for the full year 2015, in its fourth quarter 2014 earnings release in early March. 
  • "Overall, we are very pleased with our Partner developments in 2014. 
  • Co paid $14.75 million in cash and issued 238,393 common shares in consideration if Crew Marketing.

4:31 pm Frank's International announced that its Board intends to appoint Gary Luquette, cto succeed D. Keith Mosing as President and CEO after a special shareholder meeting that has been scheduled for January 23, 2015 (FI) : Mr. Luquette will continue to serve on the Board. D. Keith Mosing will remain actively involved on a day-to-day basis with the Company and will serve as Executive Chairman of the Board.

4:31 pm Osiris Therapeutics announced that it has entered into an exclusive, worldwide partnership with Stryker Corp (SYK) for the commercialization and development of Osiris' viable bone matrix tissue form (OSIR) : Co announced today that it has entered into an exclusive, worldwide partnership with Stryker Corporation (SYK) for the commercialization and development of Osiris' viable bone matrix tissue form. The Agreement provides Stryker with exclusive, worldwide rights to Osiris' viable bone matrix under the name BIO4. Osiris will be responsible for the manufacturing, continued research and product improvement activities while Stryker will be responsible for the commercialization and marketing of BIO4.

4:31 pm Shaw Comms extends $1 bln credit facility (SJR) : Co announced that it has amended the terms of its five-year $1 billion bank credit facility with its syndicate of ten financial institutions, including The Toronto-Dominion Bank as lead arranger and sole bookrunner, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada and The Bank of Nova Scotia as syndication agents and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (Canada) as documentation agent. The maturity date of the facility has been extended from January 2017 to December 2019. The facility is used for general corporate purposes.

4:30 pm Lexmark announced the appointment of David Reeder as VP and CFO, effective Jan. 9, 2015 (LXK) : Co announced the appointment of David Reeder as vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), effective Jan. 9, 2015.

  • Reeder has been CFO for Electronics for Imaging (EFII) since January 2014.

4:30 pm BPZ Energy announces new corvina cx15-14d well online (BPZ) : The well was drilled to a total measured depth of 7,845 feet and completed in six weeks.  For the last 10 days, the well has averaged approximately 600 bopd, or 306 bopd net to BPZ.  For the last 24 hours, the well has averaged 645 bopd, or 329 bopd net to BPZ. 

4:27 pm Closing market Summary: Dow and S&P Hit New Closing Highs (:WRAPX) : Remember last week's rally effort following the pronouncement from the FOMC that it will be patient in raising the fed funds rate? Well, it's not over yet. The stock market on Monday continued its winning ways with each of the major indices adding to their gains. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed at new all-time highs.

Throughout Monday's trading, there was a clear preference for owning Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks. Our sense of things is that participants were favoring these names for their liquidity, which is optimal in the event positions need to be exited quickly, and for their appeal as conservative options to participate in further upside should the year-end rally continue.

Either way, it was a good day for the price-weighted average, which saw 27 of its 30 components advance. IBM (IBM 161.45, +2.94) was the biggest price mover while Intel (INTC 37.22, +0.85), up 2.3%, was the biggest percentage gainer.

Those stocks helped lead the information technology sector (+1.1%), which was the best-performing sector in the S&P 500. Its gains helped offset weakness in the health care (-1.2%) and energy (-1.0%) sectors.

Health care was weak due in large part to a large loss in Gilead Sciences (GILD 92.90, -15.55), which followed reports that pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts (ESRX 82.34, +1.37) is going to displace Gilead's hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, in favor of a less expensive offering from AbbVie (ABBV 66.96, -0.75), Viekira Pak, which recently won FDA approval and will become the exclusive option in the formulary for patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C.

Essentially, the decision by Express Scripts created some angst about potential pricing pressures for the drug makers. Not all drug makers were weak on Monday, yet Merck (MRK 58.95, -0.63) was one of Dow's three losers, which also included Chevron (CVX 112.05, -0.88), and ExxonMobil (XOM 93.31, -0.33).

The energy sector traded in negative territory throughout the day, pressured by a renewed drop in oil and natural gas prices. WTI crude futures dipped 3.3% to $55.27/bbl while natural gas futures, hit with forecasts for warmer winter temperatures ahead in the northeast, plunged 8.2% to $3.18/btu.

Commodities in general were weak on Monday with a stronger dollar pressuring some of the action. To that end, gold futures slipped 2.0% to $1172.60/troy ounce; meanwhile, copper futures fell 0.4% to $2.87/lb.

There didn't appear to be any abject concerns in the stock market about the weakness in commodity prices signaling economic trouble ahead. Granted the materials sector (0.05%) underperformed, yet the industrials (+0.9%), consumer discretionary (+0.9%), and financial (+0.6%) sectors outperformed.

Interestingly, the 10-yr Treasury note battled back from modest losses and went out at its highs for the day as stocks were advancing into the close to finish at their best levels of the session. The highs weren't that high for the Treasury market. The 10-yr note was unchanged at 2.165%, yet its steady state didn't necessarily reflect the same amount of confidence in the outlook that the stock market's continued gains did.

A weaker-than-expected Existing Home Sales report for November, which showed a 6.1% decline in homes sold from October to an annualized rate of 4.93 million units (Briefing.com consensus 5.20 mln), lent a measure of support to the Treasury market.

Tuesday will feature an extensive lineup of economic releases that includes the Durable Orders, Third Estimate for Q3 GDP, Personal Income and Spending, University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment, and New Home Sales reports.

Volume was on the lighter side of recent averages as 772 million shares traded at the NYSE.

  • Nasdaq Composite +14.5% YTD
  • S&P 500 +12.5% YTD
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average +8.3%
  • Russell 2000 +3.1% YTD

4:24 pm Avis Budget: Glenview Capital Management files 13G reporting 5.12% stake (CAR) :  

4:21 pm Aegean Marine Petroleum to commence offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico (ANW) :

  • Co announced that it will commence immediate marine fuel supply operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • In support of its operations the Company has also assumed the contracts for two ocean-going bunkering tankers previously under charter to OW Bunker and expects to purchase the fuel on-board.

4:21 pm Document Security Systems announced that it is proposing to offer shares of its common stock in an underwritten public offering (DSS) : The co expects to grant the underwriter a 45-day option to purchase up to an additional 15% of the shares of common stock offered in the public offering to cover over-allotments, if any. DSS intends to use the net proceeds from the offering primarily for working capital and other general corporate purposes.

4:17 pm Points International announced that it has entered into a new long-term principal relationship with United Airlines' subsidiary MileagePlus (PCOM) : Points has entered into a long term agreement with United Airlines (UAL) MileagePlus to power its Buy, Gift and Transfer and Reinstate Miles, and several other ancillary products available to MileagePlus members. All programs are immediately available to MileagePlus members.

4:16 pm Metabolix updates co's biopolymer manufacturing plans; has decided to defer making a commitment to contract manufacturing at the site at this time (MBLX) : In the second half of 2014, Metabolix conducted a manufacturing site assessment, which included an engineering study, capital plan, operating cost estimates and discussions with the site owner, for intermediate scale biopolymer production at an existing contract manufacturing site. Taking into account the site assessment, timelines and other available information, Metabolix has decided to defer making a commitment to contract manufacturing at the site at this time.

4:15 pm MRC Global awarded 5-year supplier agreement by MarkWest (MRC) : Co has awarded a pipe, valves and fittings supplier agreement to its U.S. operating company, McJunkin Red Man Corporation.

  • Under this agreement, McJunkin Red Man will supply PVF for MarkWest's pipeline projects focused in the Marcellus and Utica regions. 
  • The agreement has a five year term.

4:12 pm Continental Resources lowers 2015 cap-ex, production guidance (CLR) : Co lowers 2015 non-acquisition capital expenditures budget to $2.7 bln -- co lowered budget to $4.6 bln from $5.2 bln on November 5.

Co lowers 2015 production growth to 16-20% from +23-29%.

4:11 pm Elec For Imaging announced that David Reeder has submitted his resignation as CFO; Co intends to appoint Marc Olin, currently COOr, as interim CFO (EFII) :

  • Co announced that David Reeder, in order to relocate closer to his family, has submitted his resignation as Chief Financial Officer and has accepted the position of Chief Financial Officer of Lexmark International (LXK). David will remain with EFI through January 9th to ensure a smooth transition. 
  • The Company intends to appoint Marc Olin, currently Chief Operating Officer, as interim Chief Financial Officer in addition to his current responsibilities. 
  • Marc previously served as interim Chief Financial Officer of EFI from September, 2013 through January, 2014.

4:10 pm Medivation exercises license option for Pidilizumab (MDVN) : The agreement includes a guaranty with respect to certain obligations of CureTech by Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd., CureTech's largest (53%) shareholder.

  • Under the terms of the license agreement, CureTech will receive an upfront payment of $5.0 million from Medivation and would also be entitled to payments upon the attainment of certain development and regulatory milestones totaling up to $85 million. In addition, CureTech would be eligible to receive sales-based milestone payments totaling up to $245 million upon the achievement of certain annual worldwide net sales thresholds and tiered royalties ranging from 5%-11% based on annual worldwide net sales.

4:09 pm Kaman announces sale of Mexican distribution subsidiary; expects to record $4.5-5.5 mln charge in Q4 (KAMN) :

  • Co announced that it has sold its Mexico business unit Delamac de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.  to Rodamientos y Accesorios S.A. de C.V (:RYASA) of Mexico. 
  • The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 
  • "We did not have sufficient scale in Mexico to achieve our long-term targeted profitability goals and believe the operation will be better aligned with RYASA".
  • Kaman expects to record pre-tax charges in the fourth quarter 2014 related to the transaction of approximately $4.5 million to $5.5 million. 

4:09 pm AMN Healthcare Services announced the acquisition of Avantas for an initial payment of $16.5 mln, with an earn-out potential of up to $8.5 mln based on future operating performance; expected to be neutral to AHS' earnings in 2015 and accretive by 2016 (AHS) : The co announced the acquisition of Avantas, a provider of clinical labor management services, including workforce consulting, data analytics, predictive modeling and SaaS-based scheduling technology.

  • The purchase price includes an initial payment of $16.5 million, with an earn-out potential of up to $8.5 million based on future operating performance. The acquisition was funded out of cash on hand and borrowings under the Company's existing revolving credit facility. The 2014 projected revenue of Avantas is ~$8 million, and the acquisition is expected to be neutral to AMN's earnings in 2015 and accretive by 2016. Avantas was acquired from Catholic Health Initiatives/Alegent Creighton Health.

4:08 pm FirstEnergy Ohio Utilities file settlement agreement in electric security plan (FE) : The co's Ohio utilities filed a joint stipulation agreement demonstrating broad support for Powering Ohio's Progress, their proposed Electric Security Plan currently pending before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

  • The proposed stipulation reflects the diverse interests and concerns of 15 signatories, including parties that represent residential, commercial, industrial and low-income customers, as well as organized labor and schools.  The agreement supports FirstEnergy's proposed ESP that outlines plans for its Ohio utilities -- Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating and Toledo Edison -- to provide electric service to customers for a three-year period from June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2019.  

4:07 pm Assoc Banc-Corp announces new ticker symbol for its depository shares (ASBC) :

  • Co announced that the ticker symbol for its Depository Shares, each representing a 1/40th interest in a share of 8.00% Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series B will change from "ABW PR B" to "ASB PR B" on December 23, 2014. 
  • The Company announced earlier this month that it was transferring the listing of its common stock from the NASDAQ Global Select Market  to the NYSE.
  • Co also announced that chief marketing officer Christopher Piotrowski has been promoted to executive vice president; joining the company's executive committee and reporting to president and CEO, Philip B. Flynn.

4:07 pm Innophos Holdings announces 2015 share buyback program for $125 mln, or approximately 10% of its market capitalization, over the next 12 months (IPHS) :

  • The co added that it had amended its existing senior credit facility to allow for completion of the new program.

4:06 pm Team Health Holdings announced the acquisition of the operations of Certified Anesthesia Services; terms not disclosed (TMH) :

  • Co announced the acquisition of the operations of Certified Anesthesia Services (CAS). Based in Washington, D.C., CAS' more than 40 physicians and certified registered nurse anesthetists manage ~28,000 cases annually through anesthesia management services for Sibley Memorial Hospital and seven ambulatory surgery centers.

4:06 pm Peerless Systems to be acquired by Mobius Acquisition for $7.00 per share (shares halted) (PRLS) : Co announced it will be acquired by Mobius Acquisition, LLC for $7.00 per share in cash, pursuant to a cash tender offer and second step merger.

  • Upon completion of the transaction, Peerless will become a privately held company.
  • The Peerless board of directors has unanimously approved the agreement and recommended that the shareholders of Peerless accept the offer and tender their shares into the offer. 
  • If Peerless terminates the Merger Agreement due to a breach by Mobius, or because Mobius fails to consummate the Tender Offer or the Merger, Mobius is required to pay to Peerless a termination fee in the amount of $6,000,000.  

4:05 pm Steelcase beats by $0.03, misses on revs; guides Q4 in-line (SCS) : Reports Q3 (Nov) earnings of $0.29 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.03 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $0.26; revenues rose 1.9% year/year to $800 mln vs the $824.6 mln consensus.

  • Americas orders grew 3 percent and EMEA orders grew ~1 percent in the third quarter compared to the prior year. The Americas segment had strong backlog at the end of the third quarter, driven by extended delivery dates and continued strength in project business. 
  • Organic revenue growth over the prior year was 3 percent after adjusting for unfavorable currency translation effects. Revenue in the Americas reflected an organic decline of less than 1 percent. The EMEA segment posted organic revenue growth of 14 percent primarily related to strong project business in France, although most other markets also grew organically compared to the prior year.
Co issues in-line guidance for Q4, sees EPS of $0.19-0.23, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $0.20 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees Q4 revs of $760-785 mln vs. $772.88 mln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate. 

4:03 pm Advanced Energy announced that it has started to explore strategic alternatives for its Solar Inverter business (shares halted) (AEIS) :

  • Co announced that it has started to explore strategic alternatives for its Solar Inverter business. The company is considering various options including a sale, joint venture, partnership, licensing or other alternatives including additional product line optimization and rationalization. 
  • The company plans to continue offering its inverter products and services, and supporting its customers during this process.  
  • As a result of the company's strategic review and resulting retirement of certain central inverter legacy products, the company expects to record a non-cash inventory charge of between $10 and $14 million in the fourth quarter. This non-cash inventory charge will reduce net income and earnings per share on a GAAP-basis for the fourth quarter and full year 2014 on a GAAP basis.

4:02 pm Chesapeake Energy announced the closing of its asset sale to Southwestern Energy Co for net proceeds of $4.975 bln; BoD has authorized a $1 bln common stock repurchase program (CHK) : Co announces the ale of its assets in the Southern Marcellus Shale and a portion of the Eastern Utica Shale to Southwestern for net proceeds of $4.975 billion.

  • The $400 mln adjustment to the previously reported $5.375 billion sale price is attributable to a settlement for various items, including Southwestern's waiver of any future claims related to title defects and environmental liabilities. 
  • The properties sold to Southwestern consist of approximately 413,000 net acres and approximately 1,500 wells located in northern West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania, along with related property, plant and equipment. 
  • Net production of the divested properties in mid-December was approximately 57,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day.
  • CHK's Board also authorizes a $1 bln common stock repurchase program.

4:02 pm Rex Energy announced its 2015 capital budget and production guidance and provided a financial update; expects its 2015 operational capital expenditures to be between $180-220 mln, a decrease of ~44% from the midpoint of its 2014 capital expenditure guidance (REXX) : The co's bank group has unanimously approved an amendment to the company's senior secured credit facility. The approved amendment replaces the previous leverage covenant for the senior secured credit facility with a new leverage covenant limiting senior secured borrowings to 1.75 times the company's trailing twelve month EBITDAX. Given the company expects to exit 2014 with no borrowings outstanding under its senior secured credit facility, this change to the leverage covenant provides Rex with substantial financial flexibility.

  • The co also noted that it has decided to continue its pursuit of a joint venture partner for its Moraine East development area in 2015. The company has recently begun drilling its first well in the Moraine East area, and expects to have initial production results early in the second quarter of 2015. The company's updated capital expenditure budget for 2015 assumes that the company retains its 100% ownership in the Moraine East area.

4:02 pm SeaChange announces agreement to acquire Timeline Labs for $14 mln in cash, $8 mln in SEAC stock, and up to $2.5 mln in deferred performance-based consideration payable in shares of SEAC (SEAC) :

  • Co announced that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire TLL which does business as Timeline Labs. 
  • Under the terms of the definitive agreement, SeaChange will pay $14 million in cash, $8 million in shares of SeaChange stock, and up to an additional $2.5 million in deferred performance-based consideration payable in shares of SeaChange stock. 
  • This payment will be based on financial targets for Timeline Labs over a two-year period with payment upon achievement of these metrics occurring annually. 
  • For fiscal 2016, the transaction is anticipated to be neutral to SeaChange's non-GAAP earnings per share. 
  • The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close on February 2, 2015.

4:02 pm Star Bulk Carriers announces the sale of M/V Star Kim; terms not disclosed (SBLK) :  

4:02 pm Vanda Pharma to regain US and Canadian rights to Fanapt; Novartis (NVS) to purchase $25 million of Vanda common stock (VNDA) : The co announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Novartis AG (NVS) related to the ongoing Fanapt license arbitration proceedings.  

  • The parties have agreed to dismiss the ongoing Fanapt arbitration and to release each other from any related claims. As a part of the settlement agreement, Novartis will transfer all US and Canadian rights in the Fanapt franchise to Vanda, make a $25 million equity investment in Vanda at a price per share equal to $13.82 and grant to Vanda an exclusive worldwide license to AQW051, a phase II alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist.

4:02 pm Thermon Group announces acquisition of Unitemp; financial details not disclosed (THR) :

  • Co announced that one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries has entered into an agreement to acquire certain assets and assume certain liabilities of Unitemp cc. Thermon expects the Transaction to close in spring 2015.
  • Unitemp is an ISO 9001:2008-accredited designer and supplier of heating, sensing, portable instruments, monitoring and control solutions serving the Sub-Saharan Africa market. 
  • Unitemp generated annual revenue of 90 million South African Rand (approximately $8 million US Dollars at the current exchange rate) in its most recently completed fiscal year. The current Unitemp management team will continue to operate the business following the closing of the Transaction.

4:01 pm BioSpecifics Tech announces positive opinion by CHMP for XIAPEX for the treatment of Peyronie's Disease (BSTC) : Co announces that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA.TO) has adopted a positive opinion for the use of XIAPEX for the treatment of adult men with Peyronie's disease with a palpable plaque and a curvature deformity of at least 30 degrees at the start of therapy. "The CHMP positive opinion is a very important milestone for XIAPEX and we look forward to a final decision by the EMA...We hope to be able to expand upon the commercial success we've seen in the U.S. into markets in the EU where Peyronie's disease is known to be particularly prevalent." XIAPEX is approved in the EU for the treatment of Dupuytren's contracture in adult patients with a palpable cord. 

4:00 pm American Water Works acquires Anna Meadows Water and Sewer Systems; terms not disclosed (AWK) : The purchase of the system adds ~75 customers to the co's customer base. Terms of the transaction not disclosed.

4:00 pm First Capital Bancorp announces the approval of an annual corporate dividend policy, the intent to pay a dividend during the second quarter of 2015, and the approval of a stock repurchase plan (FCVA) :

  • The Board anticipates the initial annual dividend will be $.04 per share.
  • The Board of Directors also authorized a share repurchase program to purchase up to 300,000 shares of its outstanding common stock.

3:48 pm DISH Network files reply in support of petitions for FCC to deny Comcast (CMCSA)-Time Warner (TWC) cable merger (DISH) : DISH filed its Reply at the FCC to Comcast-Time Warner Cable's (TWC) opposition to the petitions to deny their proposed merger. Reply says '"The Commission's transaction review comes down to a simple question: does the merger serve the public interest? Based on the facts and the law, the answer is straightforward: no."

3:44 pm Pacific Premier announces that it has received the required regulatory approvals for its acquisition of Independence Bank (PPBI) : The coo expects that the Independence Bank acquisition will close early in the first quarter of 2015.

3:30 pm Energy price action; nat gas futures tank (:COMDX) :

  • Jan crude oil fell $1.72/barrel, closing today's pit session at $55.38/barrel
  • Natural gas fell 33 cents to $3.14/MMBtu
  • RBOB Gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.54/gallon
  • Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.91/gallon

3:12 pm Dow +121 and S&P +5.3 edge to minor new session highs -- Nasdaq Comp +11 (:TECHX) : Relative sector strength in recent action noted in Telecom IYZ, Utility XLU, REITs IYR, Transports IYT, Restaurant.

3:12 pm Bristol-Myers confirmed that the FDA has approved Opdivo (BMY) :  

3:02 pm Medtronic's drug-coated balloon for peripheral artery disease tops standard balloon angioplasty in landmark study (MDT) :

  • The results of a landmark study published this month in Circulation, the world's leading cardiovascular journal, indicate that a novel medical device from MDT called the IN.PACT Admiral drug-coated balloon significantly outperformed standard balloon angioplasty in the treatment of symptomatic peripheral artery disease in the upper leg -- specifically, the superficial femoral and proximal popliteal arteries. 
  • To put the results in context, patients in the study's DCB group experienced the highest rate of primary patency and the lowest rate of clinically-driven target lesion revascularization at 12 months ever reported from a study of interventional treatments for this common form of peripheral artery disease.
  • On the key endpoints: The clinically driven target lesion revascularization (CD-TLR) rates at 12 months were 2.4 percent for the DCB group and 20.6 percent for the PTA group (p
  • Primary patency rates were assessed at 12 months of follow-up and showed a highly statistically significant difference: 82.2 percent for the DCB group and 52.4 percent for the PTA group (p

3:00 pm Index Changes Reminder: ExamWorks (EXAM) will replace Oplink Comms (OPLK) in the S&P SmallCap 600 after the close of trading (:INDXCH) :

  • Privately held Koch Industries is acquiring OPLK in a transaction expected to be completed soon.

2:52 pm Sky Solar Holdings annouced Weili Su, Chairman of the Board and founder of Sky Solar Holdings, is appointed to an additional role as the new Chief Executive Officer (SKYS) :

  • Weili Su, Chairman of the Board and founder of Sky Solar Holdings, is appointed to an additional role as the new Chief Executive Officer. He will be responsible for managing the daily operations of the Company.
  • Amy Zhang is appointed Deputy Chairman of the Board and Chief Strategy Officer. 

2:51 pm Sky Solar Holdings announced its intention to enter the Chinese solar market (SKYS) :

  • The Company intends to own fully operational solar assets, as well as build and transfer assets to external third parties which are mainly state-owned conglomerates and public companies. The Company has always planned to target selective provinces with large imbalances between power supply and demand, as well as the most attractive financial strength, based on the ability to make timely payments of feed-in-tariffs. 
  • The Company's board of directors approved the establishment of legal and operational entities to enter the China market, and authorized the Company's management team to evaluate acquisition targets to build the operating assets in China. Among the targets under evaluation include solar park and EPC assets owned by private entities controlled by the Company's Chairman, Mr. Weili Su, which own 165 MW of projects in operation and under construction and 4.9 GW of projects in various stages of development. 
  • The Company is currently pursuing a number of financing alternatives to implement the proposed transactions associated with this strategic initiative.

2:50 pm Sky Solar Holdings announces project financing packages (SKYS) :

  • Co announced key developments in financing for projects in two important growth markets: (i) the approval of a syndicate of loans led by the Inter-American Development Bank will provide over $50.1 mln in debt financing for the Company's 44 MW Arica 1 solar power plant in Chile's Atacama desert; and (ii) the closing of a CAD3.7 mln ($3.2 mln) 15-year loan at 5.75% from PNC Bank will refinance three recently completed rooftop projects in Ontario, Canada with total capacity of 1 MW, representing the first tranche in a CAD21.7 mln (US$18.7 mln) loan financing package that will fund the development of 16 projects with 6.2 MW of capacity in Ontario.
  • The Board of Directors of the IDB approved a financing package for the Arica 1 plant that consists of (i) a loan to Sky Solar's subsidiary, Arica Solar Generaci n 1, of $27.7 mln from the ordinary capital of the IDB, (ii) a loan of up to half the amount of the IDB Loan, or $13.9 mln, from the China Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean, and (iii) a loan of $8.5 mln from the Clean Technology Fund (the "CTF"). The final commercial terms for the loans have not yet been decided. 

2:33 pm U.S. Silica Board of Directors has authorized an increase in the co's share repurchase program from $25 mln to up to $50 mln (SLCA) :  

2:25 pm Agricultural price action (:COMDX) :

  • Mar Corn closed unchanged at $4.11/bushel
  • Mar wheat fell 8 cents to $6.25/bushel
  • Jan soybeans rose 7 cents at $10.37/bushel
  • Ethanol fell 1 cent to $1.61/gallon
  • Sugar #11 fell 0.12 cents to 14.86 cents/gallon

2:24 pm Bristol-Myers: FDA approves Opdivo for advanced melanoma (BMY) : FDA release.

2:21 pm Dollar Erases Losses, Ticks into Positive Territory: 10Y: unch..2.165%..USD/JPY: 119.91..EUR/USD: 1.2240 (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index has recouped its early losses and has ticked into positive territory. Click here to see a daily Dollar Index chart. 
  • Overnight weakness dropped the greenback below the 89.40 level, but steady buying over the course of the session has run action to session highs near 89.65. 
  • Any positive close will cause the Index to post its best settlement since April 2006. 
  • EURUSD is +15 pips @ 1.2240 as trade fights to hold onto its gains. The single currency saw a bid from the get go as buyers stepped in to defend key support near 1.2200. Eurozone data set for is limited to French consumer spending, but much of the focus will be on round two of the Greek presidential election
  • GBPUSD is -20 pips @ 1.5605 as action presses critical support in the 1.5600 region. Sterling has been trapped between 1.5600/1.5800 for nearly two months with a breakdown setting up the lowest print since August 2013. British data scheduled for tomorrow is heavy as current account, BBA Mortgage Approvals, and Final GDP are due out. 
  • USDCHF is -5 pips @ .9830 as trade holds at 28-month highs. Today's choppy action comes as the franc has recoupled with the euro.
  • USDJPY is +45 pips @ 119.90 as buyers remain in control for a fourth day. Action ticked up to 120.00, but struggled to take out minor resistance at the level. The recent highs near 122.00 remain under close watch. Japanese banks are closed for the Emperor's Birthday
  • AUDUSD is -5 pips @ .8135 after surrendering its early gains. The hard currency has been reeling as of late, losing ground in 14 of the previous 17 sessions. A breakdown of .8100 will have action at a fresh 54-month low.
  • USDCAD is +35 pips @ 1.1635 as trade threatens last week's highs near 1.1675. Any close above that level would be the best since July 2009.

2:02 pm Metals price action (:COMDX) :

  • Feb gold ended today's session $16.90 lower at $1179.10/oz
  • Mar silver also ended $0.35 lower at $15.68/oz
  • Mar copper fell 1 cent to $2.87/lb

1:50 pm Nasdaq Comp +14 joins Dow +104 and S&P +3.6 above its morning high (:TECHX) :  

1:46 pm Alcentra Capital Corp announces it has increased its revolving credit facility to $115 mln (ABDC) : The revolver was increased by $35 mln via an amendment. There is an accordion feature that allows the facility to increase to $160 mln.

1:38 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

  • RTN (109.98 +2.96%): Announced it was awarded $2.4 bln contract to provide the State of Qatar with Patriot Air and Missile Defense System.
  • TWTR (38.24 +3.13%): Renewed rumors that CEO Costolo may resign.
  • BA (128.38 +1.7%): Announced that Air China has committed to purchase 60 737s, including Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX airplanes. The commitment when finalized will be valued at more than $6 billion at current list prices.
Large Cap Losers
  • GILD (95.38 -12.05%): Express Scripts (ESRX) agreed to make AbbVie's (ABBV) Hep C drug (Viekira Pak) its sole treatment instead of GILD's Sovaldi and Harvoni.
  • CHK (18.59 -6.39%): Energy companies with exposure to Nat Gas notably lower on the day as the fossil duel drops 8% following continued milder winter forecasts (SWN & RRC also lower).
Mid Cap Gainers
  • EXAS (27.6 +6.28%): Announced that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will issue a correction to the 2015 lab fee scheduled; to reimburse Cologuard at $500.76.
  • RAD (7.13 +5.3%): Upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Cowen.
  • BBRY (10.43 +4.4%): Upgraded to Buy from Hold at TD Securities.
Mid Cap Losers
  • OCN (15.53 -29.09%): Confirmed that it has reached a settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services related to a recent investigation of related to erroneously dated borrower correspondences; to pay $150 mln and its founder and Executive Chairman has agreed to stepdown.
  • GSAT (2.84 -8.09%): Negative blog post out over the weekend leading to the sell-off.
  • NGD (4.2 -7.28%): Gold companies lower as the precious metal drops $16.5 on the day to $1179 (KGC & AU also lower).

1:19 pm S&P +3.4 joins Dow +116 at fractional new high, Nasdaq Comp +10 still hovering below its morning peak (:TECHX) :  

1:12 pm Dow +114 notches new session high, S&P +3 is back hovering slightly under its very tight range top (:TECHX) :  

1:01 pm Midday Market Summary: DJIA Is Taking Charge (:WRAPX) : It hasn't been a down day. It has been a Dow day. The blue chip average has outperformed since the opening bell and is at its highs for the session, riding some pretty broad-based strength among its 30 components.

After a big run by the stock market last week,the outperformance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average today perhaps shouldn't be seen as too much of a surprise. After all, most stocks in the average aren't extremely volatile and they are among the most liquid stocks around. In brief, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been deemed a relatively safe place to park in the stock market at this juncture for two reasons:

  1. Being involved there allows for further participation in an upside move into year end should there be one and
  2. There is ample liquidity in those names that allows for an easier exit in the event things turned south
IBM (IBM 161.64, +3.13), which isn't exactly knocking it out of the growth park these days, is the biggest point gainer, yet it is fellow technology component Intel (INTC 37.16, +0.79) that is the biggest percentage gainer. Other leaders of note for the price-weighted average include Visa (V 263.26, +1.59), 3M (MMM 166.95, +1.47), Boeing (BA 128.32, +2.09), and Home Depot (HD 103.30, +1.37).

The trading action overall has been pretty subdued. Following the opening burst of activity, the major indices have held to pretty narrow ranges with strength in the technology, consumer discretionary, industrials, and consumer staples sectors being offset by weakness in the energy and health care sectors.

Energy has followed crude prices lower (-2.9% at $55.43/bbl) while health care is being dragged down by pricing concerns following the decision by pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts (ESRX 81.90, +0.93) to kick out a more expensive hepatitis C offering from Gilead Sciences (GILD 95.65, -12.80) in favor of a less expensive treatment from AbbVie (ABBV 67.19, -0.51), which recently won FDA approval for its hepatitis C drug, Viekira Pak.

As it so happens, Merck (MRK 58.76, -0.83) is among a handful of Dow components trading lower and is the biggest percentage loser in the Dow today. Chevron (CVX 111.38, -1.55), meanwhile, is the biggest point loser.

Commodities in general have not acted well today. Gold, copper, lumber, lean hogs, natural gas, and coffee futures to name a few are all on the defensive. Natural gas futures have been hit the hardest, falling 7.0% to $3.22/btu amid forecasts for warmer temperatures ahead.

The Existing Home Sales report for November was the only item on today's economic calendar. It disappointed, showing a 6.1% month-over-month decline to 4.93 million units on an annualized basis. The silver lining, though, is that sales were up 2.1% year-over-year, marking the second straight month of a year-over-year gain.

With the stock market holding up to selling efforts, the Treasury market hasn't been able to mount much of a charge. The 10-yr note is down four ticks with its yield up one basis point to 2.18%.

12:58 pm Dow +100 pushes back near morning high -- S&P +1.8, Nasdaq Comp +10 (:TECHX) : Relative sector strength in recent trade has been noted in: Housing XHB, Semi SMH, REITs IYR, Defense PPA, Discretionary XLY, Internet FDN, Biotech IBB.

12:56 pm Stocks/ETFs that traded to new 52 week highs/lows this session - New highs (272) outpacing new lows (61) (:SCANX) : Stocks that traded to 52 week highs: AAL, ABAX, ACC, ACHN, ACOR, ADXS, AEPI, AHC, AHS, AIV, ALCO, ALL, AMAG, AMAT, AMED, ANCX, APH, AVB, AVY, AXL, AXTA, AYN, BKN, BMS, BNDX, BRCD, BXP, CAVM, CBG, CBRL, CDR, CEMP, CHD, CHFN, CHH, CHKP, CHRW, CHSP, CL, CLX, CMCSA, CMCSK, CME, CMRX, CODE, CQB, CSCO, CTAS, CTCT, CUBA, CUBE, CUNB, CVS, CXW, CY, D, DCT, DD, DGX, DHR, DIN, DOC, DPZ, DRE, DRII, DYAX, EA, EAT, ECHO, ED, EDR, EIGI, ELS, ENTA, EQIX, EQR, EQY, ESGR, ESS, ETM, FARM, FARO, FB, FCAP, FDS, FHN, FISV, FLML, FMS, FNF, FOX, FOXA, FPRX, FTCS, FTNT, G, GGP, GIB, GIII, GK, GNCMA, GPT, GSH, HA, HAWK, HAWKB, HCA, HCN, HD, HFBC, HII, HIW, HNP, HON, HPP, HPQ, HPT, HR, HSIC, HST, HTA, IART, IBKR, IDCC, IMDZ, INFN, INGN, INGR, IRC, JBL, JCOM, JLL, JOB, JRN, JRVR, KAI, KFRC, KMX, KNL, KR, KRC, KRFT, KTWO, KWR, LJPC, LLL, LMT, LNBB, LOW, MAA, MAC, MACK, MARA, MAS, MCA, MD, MDXG, MFI, MGPI, MHN, MMM, MNK, MS, MSFG, MTSI, MUA, MYJ, NAC, NAVI, NBB, NBH, NCLH, NDAQ, NHI, NICE, NKX, NNN, NOC, NPF, NRO, NTC, NUVA, NVRO, NWL, NXR, NXTM, O, OCR, OCUL, ORLY, OSUR, OVAS, PANW, PCQ, PFD, PFPT, PIKE, PKG, PLL, PPG, PPS, PRI, PSCC, PSCT, PVTB, QLYS, QSR, RAND, RCII, RCL, RCMT, RCPT, RDUS, REXR, RFMD, RIT, RKT, RMD, RPAI, RPM, RPT, RTN, SFBS, SFST, SGBK, SGC, SHW, SIRO, SKH, SKYS, SKYY, SLGN, SMCI, SNA, SO, SOR, SPB, SPG, SPLS, SQBK, STBZ, STZ, STZ.B, SUI, SURG, SWIR, SWK, SWKS, SXT, TA, TASR, TCX, THS, TJX, TQNT, TROW, TTWO, TUBE, TVPT, UDR, UNF, USAK, UTL, VOYA, WASH, WCG, WIFI, WPC, WSBF, WYN, XOXO, ZFGN

Stocks that traded to 52 week lows: AAMC, APF, ASPS, ATU, BORN, CERE, CHLN, CHN, CHNR, CNNX, CPAH, CRCM, DHRM, DSWL, ENVA, EVAR, EXD, EXE, FINL, FRPT, GALE, GDF, HIE, HOTR, HSOL, IBTX, JPEP, KWK, LALT, LUB, MN, MOMO, MY, NCTY, NEFF, NEOT, OCN, ONP, PBIB, PSTR, PT, PTNR, PTNT, RLJE, RXII, SB, SBSA, SDLP, SGOC, SOFO, SRF, TGD, TOPS, UQM, VGSH, VIEW, VLTC, VOC, VSCI, WMGI, WOR                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
ETFs that traded to 52 week highs: IAI, ICF, IGN, IHF, IHI, IYR, RTH, SKYY, URE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
ETFs that traded to 52 week lows: BJK, CHN, DJP, FXS, UNG

12:54 pm U.S. Steel aggressive breakdown extended (X) : Further declines in recent trade brings its 50 month close/intraday lows from July into play in the 25.97/25.67 area (session low 26.00).

12:43 pm Color on weakness in Nat Gas companies as the futures prices of the fossil fuel drops 7% on the day (UNG) : Futures of natural gas are down sharply this morning as continued forecasts for milder weather are lessening demand for the home heating fuel. December thus far has turned out to be unseasonably warm for most of the country.

  • The forecast is especially meaningful to the future prices of Nat Gas as the fossil fuel is used in 49% of U.S. homes to heat and provide electricity. Meanwhile, the spot price of natural gas as a result has been under heavy pressure since November when Natural Gas was comfortably trading above $4.50/btu. 
  • Currently, front month futures are down 6.5% to $3.24/btu after trading down earlier to $3.12; the lowest level since January 2013. Initial predictions from November for a harsh winter and a repeat of the 'polar vortex' experienced last year have yet to develop. 
  • Shares of a November of energy companies who have exposure to natural gas prices are also under notable pressure this morning including: Ultra Petroleum (UPL) -12%, Chesapeake Energy (CHK) -6.5%, WPX Energy (WPX) -6.7%, Southwestern Energy (SWN) -5.5%, Range Resources (RRC) -5.5%, Newfield Exploration (NFX) -4.7%, Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) -4.5%, EQT Corp (EQT) -4%, QEP Resources (QEP) -3.5%.

12:41 pm Kite Pharma announced that it has submitted an IND application to the FDA to conduct a Phase 1/2 study of KTE-C19 for the treatment of patients with refractory aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (KITE) :  

12:35 pm Color on weakness in mortgage servicers following Ocwen (OCN) settlement (OCN) : Shares of mortgage originators and services are down sharply this morning following a confirmation from Ocwen Financial (OCN) that it has reached a settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services related to a recent investigation of related to erroneously dated borrower correspondences. According to the investigation, Ocwen inadvertently sent 'improperly dated letters' to some borrows about foreclosures and modifications to their loans.

  • Under the terms of the settlement, OCN will pay $100 mln to DFS by the end of the year, an additional $50 mln to certain borrowers who had foreclosures filed against them previously by OCN, and also that its founder and Executive Chairman William Erbey would step down from the company and its related affiliates. 
  • The related companies which Erbey agreed to step down from are under heavy pressure, including: Altisource Portfolio (ASPS) -32%, Altisource Asset Management (AAMC) -28%, Altisource Residential (RESI) -7%, & Home Loan Servicing (HLSS) -5.5%. 
  • Analysts thus far have been cautious on the outcome of the settlement, warning the ongoing presence of regulators may damper the growth prospects of OCN and  terms in the settlement may open the door for further litigation. 
  • Shares of OCN are now down 72% YTD.

12:20 pm Public Service subsidiary PSEG Solar Source announced it will acquire a 12.9 megawatt solar energy facility near Waldorf, MD from juwi solar (PEG) : The acquisition will increase the capacity of PSEG Solar Source's portfolio to 123 MWdc.

12:08 pm European Markets Closing Prices (:SUMRX) : European markets are now closed; stock markets across Europe performed as follows:

  • UK's FTSE:+0.5%
  • Germany's DAX:+0.8%
  • France's CAC:+0.3%
  • Spain's IBEX:+0.1%
  • Portugal's PSI:-0.2%
  • Italy's MIB Index:+0.5%
  • Irish Ovrl Index:+0.2%
  • Greece ASE General Index: +0.6%

12:01 pm CBOE Holdings announces that CBOE and C2 Options Exchangehave entered into an agreement for FINRA toperform the majority of the exchanges' regulatory services (CBOE) : Additionally, CBOE entered into a separate agreement with FINRA, under which CBOE will assign to FINRA its responsibility to perform regulatory services for the Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority.

12:00 pm Procter & Gamble announces sale of its Camay and Zest brands along with the transfer of a manufacturing facility in Mexico to Unilever (UL); terms not disclosed (PG) : The co noted that the sale of both brands is consistent with its strategy to focus on its core brands

11:39 am Currency Commentary: Currencies Settling Ahead of Holidays (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index continues to hold steady in the mid-range of the 89 area. We are already seeing trading volume dry up as the holiday break approaches. Economic data this morning disappointed as Existing Home Sales came in well below expectations. The market continues to digest the Fed comments with some growing sentiment that April could mark the first rate hike.
  • The euro is attempting to climb off the 1.22 level as it moves to 1.2260. German Import Prices showed the impact of weaker energy prices as it declined 0.8% from the prior month. 
  • The pound continues to test the 1.56 level for support in relatively uneventful trade. Sterling has held the level on three separate tests this morning. 
  • The yen is testing the 120 level for support. It would appear that the yen is preparing to consolidate in the 118-120 area in the next few sessions. There will be a busy round of economic data the evening of Christmas that will be the biggest fundamental driver for yen this week. 
  • The Russian ruble rallied approximately 5% to erase some recent losses. The ruble was helped by comments from China's Foreign Minister in which he said the country would provide help to Russia as needed. There was also talk about expanding the two countries current currency swap. The ruble is now trading at 56.10 against the dollar after falling into the 70s last week (ECONX, BONDX),

11:23 am MGP Ingredients announced the election of Karen Seaberg as board chairperson effective immediately (MGPI) : In chairing the board, Mrs. Seaberg succeeds her father, Cloud Cray, who served as chairman during this past year, as well as from 1980 to 2005. He retains a position on the board as chairman emeritus.

11:14 am CTI Industries trademark license agreement for Ziploc brand vacuum sealing system extended for three years (CTIB) : The co announces that it has reached agreement with S. C. Johnson to extend the Trademark License Agreement among S. C. Johnson and CTI under which S. C. Johnson has granted to CTI a license for the Ziploc brand to produce and sell countertop powered vacuum sealing kitchen appliances and associated non-zippered plastic food storage vacuum bags and canisters.

  • The Trademark License Agreement has been extended for a term commencing on January 1, 2015 and extending to December 31, 2017.

11:04 am Stock indices drift back off morning highs -- Dow +71, S&P -0.1, Nasdaq Comp +2 (:TECHX) : The S&P has edged back off its morning high but remains within the tight five point range that formed within the first three minutes (2074.30-2069.28).

10:33 am AuRico Gold announced that it has entered into an agreement with Crocodile Gold providing for termination of the deferred cash payment arrangement; CG to pay AUQ C$20 mln (AUQ) : The co announced that it has entered into an agreement with Crocodile Gold providing for termination of the deferred cash payment arrangement with Crocodile Gold that was previously established in 2012 and its replacement with a revised agreement that provides both parties with a more satisfactory and mutually beneficial arrangement. 

  • Under the terms of the previous arrangement, the co was entitled to receive deferred cash payments based on net free cash flow derived from the Fosterville and Stawell gold mines. Under the new agreement, Crocodile Gold will pay the co C$20 mln in cash immediately upon closing and will grant AuRico a net smelter return royalty of 2% from Fosterville Gold Mine and 1% from Stawell Gold Mine.

10:31 am Dow +99 and Nasdaq Comp +11 edge to new session highs -- S&P +3.2 hovering just below (:TECHX) :  

10:24 am VOC Energy Trust announced an update on certain operational matters and expected distributions in 2015 (VOC) : VOC Brazos Energy Partners, L.P. has reported to the Trustee that it expects the first announced quarterly distribution in 2015 to be substantially lower than historical distributions. The expected diminution in the distribution is primarily the result of increased development expenses incurred by VOC Brazos associated with its development efforts in the Kurten Woodbine Unit. If commodity prices for crude oil remain at substantially reduced levels, VOC Brazos further expects subsequent distributions in 2015 will also be substantially lower than historical distributions.

  • Previous hedges from VOC Brazos expire as of June 14 and as a result distributions from the Trust are now fully exposed to the price of crude oil and natural gas realized by VOC Brazos. Due to restrictions under the applicable documents governing the Trust, VOC Brazos is not able to enter into additional hedge contracts for the benefit of the Trust.
  • In addition, VOC Brazos is evaluating the potential of a new pad drilling strategy for continued development of the upper EagleBine interval within the Kurten Woodbine Unit, which was not contemplated at the time of Trust formation. 
  • VOC Brazos is evaluating the potential economic benefits associated with development of the lower EagleBine interval and pad drilling in the upper EagleBine interval similar to strategies that recently have been employed by other operators in the area. If these activities are pursued, they would result in increased development costs burdening the net profits interest of the Trust relative to historical development costs, thus further temporarily reducing cash available for distributions by the Trust from the Kurten Woodbine Unit until anticipated production from these development efforts can be brought on-line.

10:14 am Ennis approved an increase in the Stock Repurchase Program by $10 mln; also declaredquarterly cash dividend of $0.175 cents a share on its common stock (EBF) : The Board of Directors of the Company approved an increase in the amount available to repurchase shares of the Company's common stock under the Stock Repurchase Program by $10 million, bringing the total approved to $20 million. The dividend is payable February 2, 2015 to shareholders of record on January 7, 2015.

10:11 am FirstEnergy announced it is working on ~$100 mln in new transmission projects and is evaluating additional system upgrades to support northern West Virginia's expanding Marcellus Shale gas industry (FE) : The co is also working on a 138-kV transmission line that will support the natural gas industry as well as enhance service reliability for nearly 13,000 customers in the Clarksburg and Salem areas. The 18-mile, $55 million Oak Mound-Waldo Run transmission project is expected to be placed into service by December 2015.

10:08 am Sasol announces the completion of a $4 bln credit facility for its ethane cracker and derivatives at its existing site in Lake Charles, Louisiana (SSL) : A syndicate of 18 international banks and other financial institutions are lenders for the credit facility. The remainder of the funds required for construction will be raised in a phased manner from a variety of potential sources, including surplus cash available in the group. Additional funding will be announced as it is secured.

10:04 am General Dynamics: US navy awards General Dynamics $498 million for mobile landing platform (GD) :

  • The U.S. Navy has awarded General Dynamics Nassco a $498 mln contract for the detail design and construction of the Mobile Landing Platform Afloat Forward Staging Base.

10:03 am Windstream announces it has been awarded a five-year multimillion-dollar contract by the National Weather Service to deliver high-speed Internet connectivity (WIN) : Windstream will provide fiber optic circuit installation, Internet services and technical support for these select regional offices that currently have limited Internet access.

10:02 am Stock indices slip slightly after housing data -- Dow +54, S&P -0.6, Nasdaq Comp +6.5 (:TECHX) :  

10:02 am Eli Lilly announces a five-year research partnership with the University of Surrey to study health outcomes, focusing on the effects of treatment in people with type 2 diabetes (LLY) :  

9:45 am Opening Market Summary: Energy Weighs (:SUMRX) : A squishy start so to speak for the major indices, which are weighing the effects of last week's V-shaped recovery effort against some early weakness in the energy sector (-1.5%), which was instrumental in that recovery effort.

From its low last Monday to its high on Friday, the S&P 500 energy sector soared 10.5%. It is on the defensive at the moment, however, pulling back along with WTI crude futures (-$0.89 at $56.24/bbl) which were unable to hold a bid overnight that carried them as high as $58.50/bbl.

The weakness in the energy sector is being offset by relative strength in the technology, industrials, and consumer discretionary sectors, all of which are up 0.4% at this juncture.

9:43 am Lagging Nasdaq Comp +3.8 climb back into positive territory -- Dow +61, S&P +0.3 (:TECHX) :  

9:36 am Mixed open for the major averages with Nasdaq Comp -3.5 lagging -- Dow +68, S&P +0.3 (:TECHX) : Underperforming sectors in early trade include: Biotech IBB (GILD, CELG, BIIB, MDVN, REGN, AMGN, BMRN, CLVS, ALXN), Crude Oil USO, Oil Service OIH, Energy XLE, Natural Gas UNG, Gold Miners GDX, Health XLV.

9:36 am Vringo announced that a UK Court ordered ZTE (ZTCOF) to pay the co ~$938k to cover legal costs (VRNG) : The co announced that the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Patents Court in the United Kingdom ordered ZTE to make an interim payment on account of Vringo's legal costs incurred with respect to the UK part of Vringo's European Patent 1,212,919 (the "'919 Patent"), previously found to be infringed by ZTE and valid as amended.

  • The Court ordered ZTE to pay Vringo ~$938,000 after taking into account a balancing payment to ZTE with respect to Vringo's withdrawal of another patent from litigation, by January 12, 2015. ZTE's obligation to pay for Vringo's remaining costs with respect to the '919 Patent will be assessed by a separate process, unless agreed, to be conducted next year.

9:29 am Babcock & Wilcox announces that a consortium that includes its Denmark-based subsidiary, has been awarded a $230 mln contract to engineer, procure and construct a waste-to-energy power plant near Dunbar, Scotland (BWC) : The project was booked in the fourth quarter of 2014. Engineering is underway and the plant is scheduled to go online in the fourth quarter of 2017.

9:28 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • IBM (IBM) announced the opening of its first cloud data center with SoftLayer in Japan, located in Tokyo. This announcement comes on the heels of recent SoftLayer cloud data center launches in Melbourne and Paris and represents the next step in IBM's $1.2 billion investment to expand its global cloud footprint.
  • eBay Enterprise, an eBay (EBAY) company, announced an extended multiyear agreement with Belk Inc., the nation's largest privately owned department store company. eBay Enterprise will continue to provide Belk with multi-site customer support to scale with Belk's continual growth.
  • DuPont (DD) announced that it is consolidating its corporate headquarters at the company's Chestnut Run Plaza campus in New Castle County effective July 1, 2015, following a review of separation of assets and real estate associated with the separation of the company's Performance Chemicals segment, now named The Chemours Company.
  • Firsthand Technology Value Fund (SVVC) disclosed that the Fund commenced a tender offer. The Fund will purchase up to $20 million of its issued and outstanding common shares for cash at a price per share equal to 95% of the net asset value per share of the Fund determined on December 31, 2014.
  • I.D. Systems (IDSY) announced it will implement its wireless Vehicle Management System (VMS.V) at a Ford plant in Southeast Asia. Ford currently has I.D. Systems' VMS technology deployed in plants throughout North America and Europe.
  • The U.S. Navy, Naval Air Systems Command and Gevo (GEVO) announced the first successful "alcohol-to-jet" supersonic flight at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Md. 
  • Manitex International (MNTX) announced that it has successfully completed the formation of its Joint Venture with Terex Corporation (TEX), and has become the majority owner of ASV, effective December 19, 2014. The consideration for Manitex's majority share in ASV was $25 Million, consisting of a $20 million investment by Terex in MNTX common stock and debt securities, and $5 million in cash.
  • VAALCO Energy (EGY) announced that production from Well 2-H in the Ebouri field, offshore Gabon, has resumed following successful wireline remedial work.  VAALCO expects production to stabilize at approximately 2,500 gross barrels of oil per day, 700 net to VAALCO. The well is targeting the Gamba formation in the southernmost fault block of the Etame field, and is expected to be completed and put on production in February 2015.
  • Amgen (AMGN) and LabCentral announced an agreement in which Amgen has become a LabCentral platinum sponsor. As part of the sponsorship agreement, Amgen can nominate up to two promising life-sciences and biotech startup companies per year to take up residence in LabCentral's Kendall Square facilities.
  • Tyler Technologies (TYL) has signed a contract with Lexington County, South Carolina, to implement Tyler's iasWorld appraisal and tax administration software. The agreement includes implementation of iasWorld's Tax Billing & Collections functions, professional services and maintenance.
  • Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND) announced that its partner GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) plc reported the submission of a supplemental New Drug Application to the US Food and Drug Administration for eltrombopag, seeking an additional indication in pediatric patients six years old and older with chronic immune thrombocytopenia who have had an insufficient response to corticosteroids, immunoglobulins or splenectomy.
  • Actavis (ACT) announced that Jonathon Kellerman has joined the Company as Executive Vice President, Global Chief Compliance Officer.  Mr. Kellerman is a member of the Actavis Executive Leadership Team and will report directly to Brent Saunders, CEO and President. 
  • Escalera Resources (ESCR) announced that the borrowing base under its $250 million credit facility with Societe Generale has been reaffirmed following completion of its fall 2014 semi-annual redetermination. As of December 19, 2014 Escalera's borrowing base remains at $50.0 million. As of November 30, 2014 Escalera had combined liquidity of $10.9 million, which consisted of cash, cash equivalents and borrowing capacity under its credit facility.

9:24 am Altisource Residential announced that William C. Erbey is stepping down from his position as Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors effective January 16, 2015 (RESI) : The Company also announced that David B. Reiner, a current independent Director of the Company, has been appointed Chairman, effective January 16, 2015. Mr. Erbey, who has been Chairman since inception, is stepping down in connection with the Consent Order entered into by Ocwen Financial Corporation (OCN) with the New York Department of Financial Services.

  • Separately Altisource Asset Management Corporation (AAMC) also announced that William C. Erbey is stepping down from his position as Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company, effective January 16, 2015.

9:23 am Altisource Portfolio Solutions announces that William C. Erbey, is stepping down from his position as Director and Chairman of the Board (ASPS) : The co announced that William C. Erbey, is stepping down from his position as Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Altisource and that Timo V tt , has been appointed as Chairman, effective January 16, 2015.

  • Mr. Erbey, who served as Director and Chairman of Altisource since August 2009, continues to be Altisource's largest shareholder, and stepped down in connection with the Consent Order entered into by Ocwen Financial Corporation (OCN) with the New York Department of Financial Services.

9:20 am Office Depot announced it has been awarded two contracts, valued in excess of $400 mln by The Cooperative Purchasing Network (ODP) : The co announced it has been awarded two contracts, valued in excess of $400 million, following a competitive solicitation process for both office and school supplies by Region 4 Education Service Center, the lead agency for The Cooperative Purchasing Network

9:17 am RiT Technologies announced that CFO Elan Yaish, has resigned to pursue other opportunities (RITT) : The co announced that its Board of Directors has promoted its Controller, Eran Erov to VP Finance, effective immediately. Eran Erov will replace current CFO Elan Yaish.

9:15 am S&P futures vs fair value: +7.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +4.50. (:WRAPX) : Not much change in the futures market action from the time of the last update.  Accordingly, the cash market remains on track for a modestly higher start that will have it flirting with a new all-time high.

The energy sector will be a focal point.  It stormed back last week with a 9.7% gain.  Will be interesting to see where it goes today with crude futures unable to sustain an overnight rebound effort.

9:09 am Home Loan Servicing announces that William C. Erbey will be stepping down as non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company effective January 16, 2015 (HLSS) : The Company also announced that Robert J. McGinnis has been appointed non-executive Chairman of HLSS, effective January 16, 2015. Mr. McGinnis, an independent director of the Company since 2011, serves as Chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and is a member of the Audit Committee and the Compensation Committee of the Board.

9:05 am Pharmacyclics announces update on IMBRUVICA Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia submission; FDA has provided a PDUFA target date of April 17, 2015 (PCYC) : The co announced that the U.S Food and Drug Administration has provided a Prescription Drug User Fee Act target date of April 17, 2015 by which time the FDA is planning to finalize its review of a supplemental New Drug Application for IMBRUVICA (ibrutinib) as a treatment for patients with Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia.

9:04 am Tekmira Pharma establishes manufacturing and clinical trial agreement to provide TKM-ebola-guinea for clinical studies in West Africa (TKMR) : Co announced that the Company has entered into a Manufacturing and Clinical Trial Agreement with the University of Oxford to provide the new TKM-Ebola-Guinea therapeutic product for clinical studies in West Africa. The studies are expected to commence early next year, subject to finalization of a suitable clinical protocol.

9:04 am Feb crude oil extends losses, falls below $56 to a new LoD; Feb crude is now -2% at $56.00/barrel (:COMDX) :  

9:04 am MEI Pharma announced that the clinical response milestone has been reached in the Co's ongoing Phase II study of its investigational drug candidate Pracinostat in combination with a hypomethylating agent in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome who previously failed treatment with single-agent HMA (MEIP) : Co announced that the clinical response milestone has been reached in the Company's ongoing Phase II study of its investigational drug candidate Pracinostat in combination with a hypomethylating agent (:HMA) in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (:MDS) who previously failed treatment with single-agent HMA. Of the first 28 patients who received Pracinostat in combination with azacitidine (marketed as Vidaza ) or decitabine (marketed as Dacogen ) after progressing while being treated with the same HMA alone, three have now achieved clinical responses, one partial response (:PR) and two marrow complete responses (mCR), exceeding the pre-specified clinical improvement rate for expansion of study enrollment.

9:04 am Diana Shipping announces signing and drawdown of a $53.5 mln term loan facility with BNP Paribas (DSX) : The proceeds will be used to partially finance the acquisition costs of two Capesize dry bulk vessels, the m/v P. S. Palios and the m/v G. P. Zafirakis, which were delivered to the Co on Dec 2, 2013 and Aug 20, 2014, respectively.

  • Additionally, the Co announced that through a separate wholly-owned subsidiary, it entered into a time charter contract with Glencore Grain B.V., Rotterdam, for one of its Panamax dry bulk vessels, the m/v Nirefs. The gross charter rate is $7,500 per day minus a 5% commission paid to third parties, for a period of 11-14 months. The charter is expected to commence on Dec 25, 2014. This employment is anticipated to generate ~$2.47 mln of gross revenue for the minimum scheduled period of the charter.

9:03 am QTS Realty Trust announced its unsecured credit facility has been increased to $650 mln, up from $560 mln (QTS) :

  • Co announced its unsecured credit facility has been increased to $650 million, up from $560 million.
  • In addition, the unsecured credit facility maturity date was extended through December 17, 2019 in relation to the $100 million term loan portion and December 17, 2018 in relation to the $550 million revolving credit portion of the facility.
  • The $550 million revolving credit facility also has a one-year extension option to December 17, 2019.

9:03 am Ocwen Fincl agrees to settlement with New York Dept. of Financial Services; Ocwen will pay a civil monetary penalty of $100 mln to the DFS (OCN) :

  • Under the terms of the settlement, Ocwen will pay a civil monetary penalty of $100 mln to the DFS by December 31, 2014, which will be used by the State of New York for housing, foreclosure relief and community redevelopment programs. 
  • The Company will also pay $50 mln as restitution to current and former New York borrowers who had foreclosure actions filed against them by Ocwen between January 2009 and December 19, 2014. 
  • As previously communicated in the third quarter of 2014, Ocwen recorded a charge of $100 mln to increase its legal reserves in anticipation of a potential settlement with the DFS. Ocwen will record an additional $50 mln charge in its fourth quarter 2014 financial statements to reflect the final settlement amount.

9:02 am Appliance Recycling Cntrs announced that Jeffery Ostapeic has been appointed the co's CFO (ARCI) : Co announces that Jeffery Ostapeic has been appointed the company's Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Ostapeic is a certified public accountant and served most recently as an audit partner with Grant Thornton LLP, an international accounting firm. He previously served with the Ernst & Young LLP and McGladrey & Pullen LLP public accounting firms.

9:02 am Silicon Image: Engaged Capital sends letter to Board of SIMG; Calls on SIMG Board to cut costs, aggressively repurchase shares, and take action to unlock the value of the Company's assets (SIMG) : Highlights of the letter include:

  • "We believe the Company has a highly valuable High-Definition Multimedia Interface franchise that is obscured by the complexity of SIMG's business. We believe the Company's profitability has been negatively impacted by a bloated cost structure more suitable for a much larger company. Based on feedback from industry participants and competitors, we believe SIMG's 60 GHz wireless assets have significant unrealized value."
  • "We believe that even in a worst case scenario, SIMG's stock is trading at almost a 50% discount to the sum of its parts."
  • "Due to the severe undervaluation and significant cash balance, currently almost $150 million, the Board has the opportunity and responsibility to create additional shareholder value through proper capital allocation. If the Board is truly confident in the Company's plan towards unlocking significant value, we encourage the Company to aggressively repurchase stock at current prices which are well below the intrinsic value of SIMG's assets."

9:01 am Whiting Petroleum proved reserves increased to ~780 mln barrels of oil equivalent; co announced increased credit commitments, pursuit of monetization of select assets (WLL) : Co announced its proved reserves, effective December 31, 2014, increased to an estimated 780 million barrels of oil equivalent ("MMBOE") of which 83% were classified as oil and 90% were classified as oil and natural gas liquids.

  • After replacing 2014 production, this represents a 29% increase over the year-end 2013 combined total for Whiting and Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp. (:KOG) of 606 MMBOE.  
  • "The 29% growth in our reserves underpins our strong financial position. Accordingly, on December 19, 2014 our bank syndicate increased our credit commitments to $4.5 billion reflecting our reserves and current market conditions. At year-end 2014, we estimate we will have approximately $1.4 billion drawn, leaving us $3.1 billion of liquidity."
  • "We are also pursuing monetization of select assets that would reduce debt and create up to $1 billion in additional liquidity. Given volatile oil prices, we intend to issue final 2015 guidance on our fourth quarter 2014 results call in February 2015."

9:01 am Baxter announces thatit has submitted a BLA to the FDA for the approval of BAX111 (BAX) : The filing was based on the completion of a Phase III, multi-center, open-label clinical trial assessing the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of BAX111. The study met its primary efficacy endpoint defined by the number of patients who achieved treatment success for control of bleeding episodes. All patients treated in the full analysis set experienced a 100% treatment success rating based on a 4-point efficacy rating scale, comparing prospectively estimated number of infusions needed to treat the bleeding episodes to the actual number of infusions administered. The median number of infusions required to treat bleeding events in the trial was 1.0 and the majority of events (81.1%) were resolved with a single infusion. 

8:59 am Natural gas and WTI crude oil both hit new morning lows; Jan nat gas is now -8.1% at $3.19/MMBtu, Feb crude is -1.5% at $56.27/barrel (:COMDX) :  

8:53 am Noble Corp PLC announced that shareholders approved a proposal authorizing the Company to purchase from time to time up to 37 mln ordinary shares (NE) : The authority conferred by passage of this proposal will expire on the later of 16 months after the meeting date or the end of the Company's 2016 annual general meeting of shareholders.

8:52 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Bio-Path Holdings (BPTH) announced that it has initiated development of Liposomal Bcl-2 as a treatment for follicular lymphoma. The Company plans to file an Investigational New Drug application in the first half of 2015.
  • Silicom (SILC) announced that it has received another Design Win for its Switched SETAC solution. The client has selected the accelerated version of the Switched SETAC solution, and has already placed initial purchase orders totaling $250,000. Silicom estimates that its future sales to this customer will ramp to approximately $1 million per year.
  • Nova LifeStyle (NVFY) announced that it has expanded its footprint in Asia with the opening of seven new stores across China. 
  • Gladstone Investment Corporation (GAIN) announced that on December 19, 2014, it made a $19.6 million investment to recapitalize B+T Group in partnership with B+T Group's management team. Gladstone Investment completed this transaction with its affiliate, Gladstone Capital Corporation (GLAD), which invested $8.4 million.
  • Cutera (CUTR) announced that it started its first customer shipments and deliveries of its picosecond laser platform, enlighten, which is 510(k) cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for tattoo removal and the treatment of benign pigmented lesions.
  • Corporate Resource Services (CRRS) announced that it and Carl Marks are currently in discussions with potential new lenders and have received letters which achieved the December 19th, 2014 milestone in its amendment with Wells Fargo Bank, National Association.
  • K2M Group Holdings (KTWO) announced the completion of the first surgical case using the Company's CAPRI Corpectomy Cage System, an expandable vertebral body replacement device that provides structural stability following a corpectomy or vertebrectomy.

8:49 am Timberline Resources announces release of final EIS for Butte Highlands Gold Project (TLR) : The co announced that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has published the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Butte Highlands Joint Venture's proposed underground gold mine in the Highland Mountains south of Butte, Montana.

  • Concurrent with publishing the FEIS, the MDEQ released a proposed Non-significance Determination on Basin Creek stream flow alteration related to proposed plans to hydraulically plug the historic Highland Mine adit.
  • The MDEQ will accept public comments on this proposed Non-significance Determination for 30 days, but is not required to respond to such. The public comment period must be completed prior to issuance of the ROD for the proposed project.

8:45 am Tekmira Pharma Receives Clearance to Conduct a Phase I Clinical Study With TKM-HBV (TKMR) : Co announced that it has received a No Objection Letter from Health Canada regarding its Clinical Trial Application, allowing the Company to proceed with a Phase I clinical trial with TKM-HBV, a therapeutic agent designed to treat patients chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (:HBV).

  • The Company expects to commence a single ascending dose Phase I trial with TKM-HBV in healthy human volunteers in the first quarter of 2015, and progress to chronically infected patients in a multi-dosing regimen in the second half of 2015.

8:35 am Gapping up/down summary: (:SUMRX) : Gapping up:

In reaction to strong earnings/guidance
: None

M&A related: SANW +35.2% ( to acquire DuPont Pioneer's alfalfa research and production assets for $42 mln), CACQ +1.3% (merging with CZR in all stock transaction)CZR +3.8% (merging with CACQ in all stock transaction).

A few Russia names are trading higher amid bounce in ruble, decline in bond yields there: QIWI +3.4%, YNDX +3%.

Other news:  ACHN +14.5% (announced positive data on hepatitis C treatment),ENTA +21.2% (FDA approves AbbVie's (ABBV) Viekira Pak; ENTA is partnered with ABBV on drug),CYTX light volume +20% (on Friday morning co amended BARDA contract to accelerate thermal burn injury countermeasure),BCRX +10.2% (receives FDA approval for the treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza ),PLUG +5.6% (still checking), TASR +3.6% (announced multiple orders of its TASER brand next generation Smart Weapons and Conducted Electrical Weapons), NLNK +3.5% & Merck (MRK) announce collaboration to manufacture Ebola vaccine candidate supported by $30 mln government award), PBR +3.4% (still checking), CBST +2.1% (announces FDA approval of new antibiotic ZERBAXA).

Analyst comments: BBRY +2.1% (upgraded to Buy from Hold at TD Securities), RAD +1.8% (upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Cowen).


Gapping Down:

In reaction to disappointing earnings/guidance:  SGOC -56.8% (announced FY14 interim financial results: revenues decreased 70% to $34.1 mln), TESO -7.3% light volume (guides Q4 below consensus following oil price decline).

Other news:  GILD -11.6% (Express Scripts (ESRX) agreed to make AbbVie's (ABBV) Hep C drug (Viekira Pak, approved on Friday) the exclusive treatment for most patients), OCN -10% (WSJ reports Chairman may resign amid settlement), NEWM-1.8% (files for $150 mln offering of common stock).

8:32 am American Apparel confirmed that it has received an indication of interest to acquire the Company for $1.30 to $1.40 per share; also announced that Allan Mayer and David Danziger have stepped down as Co-Chairmen of the Board and will be replaced by Board Member Colleen Brown as Chairperson (APP) : Mr. Mayer and Mr. Danziger will continue to serve as Members of the Board and will retain their positions as Chairs of the Compensation and Audit committees, respectively.

  • The Board of Directors also confirmed that it has received an indication of interest to acquire the Company for $1.30 to $1.40 per share. The Board takes these matters seriously, and it will evaluate this proposal in the ordinary course of business. The Company remains focused on positioning American Apparel for a successful turnaround.

8:31 am VBL Therapeutics announced positive results from its exploratory Phase 2a study of VB-111 in patients with recurrent, iodine-resistant differentiated thyroid cancer (VBLT) : Co announced positive results from its exploratory Phase 2a study of VB-111 in patients with recurrent, iodine-resistant differentiated thyroid cancer. VB-111 demonstrated disease stabilization and safety in the study, which was designed to assess the compound's safety and signal of efficacy.

"We are excited to see that VB-111 provided disease stabilization for patients who previously progressed after receiving several lines of treatment, and are encouraged by the compound's continuously favorable safety profile. Going forward, we plan to focus our efforts and resources on our pivotal Phase 3 study of VB-111 in recurrent glioblastoma (rGBM), which we plan to initiate in the first half of 2015."

8:31 am Gladstone Investments made a $19.6 mln investment to recapitalize B+T Group in partnership with B+T Group's management team (GAIN) :

  • Co announced that on December 19, 2014, it made a $19.6 mln investment to recapitalize B+T Group in partnership with B+T Group's management team. Gladstone Investment completed this transaction with its affiliate, Gladstone Capital Corporation (GLAD) which invested $8.4 million. 
  • In addition to the equity capital necessary for the transaction, GAIN and GLAD also provided the debt financing. B+T Group.

8:31 am Pfenex announces active IND and additional BARDA funding for recombinant anthrax vaccine program, Px563L (PFNX) :

  • Co announced the IND for Px563L, Pfenex's recombinant anthrax vaccine, has been filed and is now open and that this program has received additional funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

8:31 am Nuvilex announced that the FDA has granted it orphan drug designation for its pancreatic cancer treatment (NVLX) : Nuvilex's pancreatic cancer treatment combines Nuvilex's patented and proprietary cellulose-based encapsulation technology, known as Cell-in-a-Box , with the cancer prodrug ifosfamide and encapsulated live cells that convert the prodrug into its cancer-killing form.

  • Nuvilex is currently preparing for a Phase 2b clinical trial in advanced pancreatic cancer (the orphan indication) in Australia to gain regulatory approval from agencies like the FDA for Nuvilex's targeted chemotherapy of pancreatic cancer. Nuvilex's clinical trial is planned to commence in 2015.

8:31 am Raytheon awarded $2.4 bln contract to provide the State of Qatar with Patriot Air and Missile Defense System (RTN) :

  • Co has received a $2.4 billion Foreign Military Sales contract for new-production fire units of the combat-proven Patriot Air and Missile Defense System for the State of Qatar.
  • Qatar, a new Patriot customer, now brings the total number of global Patriot customers to 13. The acquisition is part of an Armed Services modernization and recapitalization effort announced by Qatar in March of this year.
  • The contract includes the latest Patriot fire units featuring increased computing power and radar processing efficiency, improved man-machine interface and reduced life-cycle costs.

8:30 am Cerus announced that its Phase 2 clinical trial of red blood cells treated with the INTERCEPT Blood System met its primary endpoint (CERS) : Co announced that its Phase 2 clinical trial of red blood cells treated with the INTERCEPT Blood System met its primary endpoint, with preliminary analysis demonstrating that greater than 75% of treated red blood cells continued to circulate 24 hours following transfusion.

  • Each subject received two transfusions of the subject's own red blood cells, one INTERCEPT-treated, and the other a control not treated for pathogen inactivation. Red blood cell units were stored for 35 days prior to transfusion. The primary endpoint of the clinical trial, a mean INTERCEPT red blood cell recovery of greater than 75% at 24 hours post-transfusion, was met. The INTERCEPT red blood cells had a recovery of 83% compared to 85% for control red blood cells, and both INTERCEPT-treated and control red blood cells met the criteria for red blood cell recovery recommended by the FDA. 

8:29 am S&P futures vs fair value: +7.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +3.00. (:WRAPX) : The futures market is showing resilience to selling efforts as it is making its way back toward its best levels of the morning.  The positive disposition coincides with the favorable price action seen in foreign markets and is in keeping with the typically upbeat bias this time of year.

Remains to be seen what type of involvement there is today as it is thought the holiday-shortened week will keep participation on the low side with traders making an early break for vacation following last Friday's options expiration and quarterly rebalancing.

Crude futures still on the defensive (-$0.32 at $56.81/bbl).  10-yr Treasury note -5/32 at 2.19%.

8:20 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Cyan (CYNI) announced that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network communications headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., has selected Cyan to help upgrade its regional and metro networks to 100G utilizing Cyan's Z-Series packet-optical hardware.
  • PROS (PRO) announced Japan Airlines has fully deployed PROS Origin and Destination revenue management solution to enhance its demand forecasting and price-mix optimization capabilities for its global business.
  • LivePerson (LPSN) and Grupo Atencion, a provider of business-to-business customer solutions in Latin America, announced a strategic partnership to promote and deliver the LiveEngage platform to the Latin American market.
  • Globalstar (GSAT) has selected Level 3 Communications (LVLT) to provide a fully meshed Multi-Protocol Label Switching network for their ground stations across the globe.
  • Seabridge Gold (SA) announced that the Federal Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, has issued her Environmental Assessment Decision Statement for Seabridge's KSM Project. The Statement endorses the conclusions of the KSM Comprehensive Study Report prepared by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency which found that the KSM Project is not likely to result in significant adverse effects on the environment. 
  • Two River Bancorp (TRCB) announced that it has received approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for its application to operate a full-service branch office located at 31 East Main Street, Freehold, New Jersey.
  • Sutor Technology Group (SUTR) announced its subsidiary, Ningbo Zhehua Heavy Steel Pipe Manufacturing, recently entered into a new contract to process and deliver 5,000 metric tons of spiral seam and straight seam welded steel pipes. The deliveries under this contract are to be made from December of 2014 to January of 2015.
  • Atmel Corporation (ATML) and Fingerprint Cards AB announced the two companies are jointly bringing the world's best capacitive touchscreens and touch fingerprint area sensor technology to smart devices.
  • Global Eagle Entertainment (ENT) announced that it has received Supplemental Type Certificate approval to install its Ku-band satellite connectivity system on Boeing (BA) 777 aircraft. Beginning in January 2015, airlines can equip their B777 aircraft with GEE's connectivity system. 
  • EZchip Semiconductor (EZCH) announced that its latest network processor, the 200-Gigabit NP-5, is now in full production. TNP-5 is now being delivered in quantity to EZchip's customers for deployment in Tier-1 carrier and data-center networks.
  • Receptos (RCPT) announced that the Company has enrolled the first patient in the SUNBEAM Phase 3 trial of RPC1063 in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis. The Company had previously initiated the Phase 3 portion of the RADIANCE trial in patients with RMS. With both trials now actively enrolling patients, Receptos is on track to complete this Phase 3 clinical development program in 2017.
  • ChinaNet Online Holdings (CNET) announced that it has signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement with MediaFun Creative for cloud print services company based in Taiwan.
  • Western Gas Partners (WES) announced that the option granted to a third party to make a 50% investment in Nuevo Midstream, LLC has expired without being exercised.
  • Kyocera Corporation (KYO) and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation announced that Kyocera TCL Solar LLC, a joint venture established by the two companies, will develop and operate a 13.4-megawatt floating solar power plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir, managed by the Public Enterprises Agency of Chiba Prefecture in Japan for industrial water services. 
  • Five9 (FIVN) announced that CompliancePoint has audited and confirmed that the Five9 TCPA Manual Touch Mode solution helps contact centers reduce the risk associated with autodialed calls to mobile phones without prior consent.
  • Sparton Corporation (SPA) announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Sparton DeLeon Springs, LLC completed the acquisition of certain assets of Argotec, Inc. on December 8, 2014 in an all-cash transaction.
  • KBR (KBR) announced that it has been awarded the license and engineering contracts to perform front end engineering and design for a potential expansion of Mosaic's Ammonia Plant in St. James, La. Expected revenue from the contract was included in the third quarter 2014 backlog of unfilled orders for the Hydrocarbons segment. The contract value was not disclosed.

8:13 am TerraForm Power announced that its BoD increased its quarterly dividend 20% to $0.27 from $0.2257 (TERP) :  

8:06 am Oracle announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Datalogix; terms not disclosed (ORCL) : Datalogix aggregates and provides insights on over $2 tln in consumer spending from 1,500 data partners across 110 mln households to provide purchase-based targeting and drive more sales. The addition of Datalogix represents a further extension of ORCL's Public Cloud strategy to combine IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and Data as a Service on a common cloud and to transform SaaS business applications and processes by integrating data within these applications. 

8:04 am Accenture announced the appointment of Omar Abbosh as Chief Strategy Officer (ACN) : The co announced the appointment of Omar Abbosh as chief strategy officer. He succeeds Shawn Collinson, who will retire from the company. These changes are effective March 1, 2015.

8:03 am TerraForm Power completes acquisition of 77.6 MW of distributed solar power plants from Capital Dynamics; (TERP) : The transaction is expected to provide approximately $21 million in unlevered Cash Available for Distribution in the next year and will be immediately accretive to CAFD per share. The power purchase agreements in the acquired portfolio have a weighted average remaining contract life of 19 years with a weighted average credit rating of A3/A-.

8:03 am Digi Intl provides update on Thailand fire incident; guides for Q1 impact (DGII) : "On Nov 12, 2014, Digi International (DGII) reported a fire had significantly impacted the operations of SVI Public Company Limited, a contract manufacturer it utilizes near Bangkok, Thailand. We are providing an update on the situation and its anticipated impact on our results.

While the fire caused a significant disruption to our short-term manufacturing capacity, our efforts to redirect production requirements to other contract manufacturers, accelerate production in our own facility and resume limited production at another SVI facility have progressed better than we originally expected. Further, we now expect the replacement cost of equipment we owned that was destroyed or irreparably damaged in the fire to be covered by insurance proceeds.

Despite this progress, we do anticipate the fire will impact on our fiscal first quarter results. Specifically, we expect the revenue impact from the fire on the quarter ending December 31, 2014 to be in the range of $1.5 million to $2.5 million. We expect the fire to impact earnings per share in the first quarter in the range of $0.03 to $0.04. We do not expect the fire to impact our full fiscal year 2015 results."

8:03 am Xunlei Limited announces an up to US$20 million share repurchase program (XNET) : Co approves an up to US$20 mln share repurchase program. Co expects to implement this share repurchase program over the next 12 months.

8:02 am NewLink Genetics & Merck (MRK) announce collaboration to manufacture Ebola vaccine candidate supported by $30 mln government award (NLNK) : The cos announced that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (:BARDA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services has awarded NewLink Genetics' wholly-owned subsidiary, BioProtection Systems, as the prime contractor in a $30 million contract to support the manufacturing and development activities of its investigational rVSV-EBOV (Ebola) vaccine candidate, including clinical development through a new 330-person Phase Ib study. 

  • Pending the results of Phase I trials underway, the US National Institutes of Health has announced plans to initiate, in early 2015, a large randomized, controlled Phase II/III study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this and another investigational Ebola vaccine candidate.

8:02 am S&P futures vs fair value: +4.80. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: +4.50. (:WRAPX) : The S&P futures are off their overnight highs, yet are still trading 0.3% above fair value.   Gains in foreign markets and carryover momentum from last week's FOMC-induced rally have contributed to the bullish bias along with expectations that the year-end rally effort will continue on the back of performance chasing.

WTI crude futures hit $58.50/bbl overnight but have been fading from that mark in steady fashion ever since.  They are currently -$0.62 at $56.51/bbl.  Some of the bullish enthusiasm in the futures market was curtailed as oil prices faded.

Today's data will be limited to the Existing Home Sales report for November, which will be released at 10:00 ET. 

In U.S. corporate news of note:

  • Achillion Pharmaceuticals (ACHN 21.42, +7.21) has spiked 50% after announcing positive Phase 2 trial data for its treatment of genotype 1 HCV-infected patients
  • Caesars Entertainment (CZR 13.49) said it will acquire Caesars Acquisition Company (CACQ 9.46) in an all-stock merger
  • AbbVie (ABBV 70.50, +2.79) trading 4.1% higher after winning FDA approval of its Hepatitis C drug, Viekira Pak
  • Express Scripts (ESRX 82.29, +1.32) indicated that AbbVie's Hepatitis C drug, Viekira Pak, will be the exclusive option for patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C
    • Gilead Sciences (GILD 100.91, -7.54) trading 7% lower following ESRX announcement  

Reviewing overnight developments:
  • Asian markets ended higher.  Hong Kong's Hang Seng +1.3%, China's Shanghai Composite +0.6%, and Japan's Nikkei +0.1%
    • Economic data was limited: 
      • New Zealand's Westpac Q4 Consumer Sentiment fell to 114.8 from 116.7
    • In news: 
      • Media reports suggested the Chinese government might implement utility industry reforms in 2015

  • Major European indices are trading mostly higher.  France's CAC 40 +0.7%, Germany's DAX +1.2%, and UK's FTSE 100 +0.9%
    • In economic data:
      • Germany's Import Price Index for Novemberdecreased 0.8% month-over-month (expected -0.5%; previous -0.3%) while the year-over-year reading fell 2.1% (consensus -1.8%; last -1.2%) 
      • Italy's non-EU trade surplus narrowed to EUR2.72 billion from EUR4.02 billion
    • In news:
      • Bloomberg reporting the U.S. government is pushing to have BP (BP) pay $16-18 billion in water-pollution fines related to 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill

8:02 am General Cable announced that it has completed the sale of its interest in Phelps Dodge International Philippines for cash consideration of $67 mln (BGC) : The Company sold its 60% interest to its joint venture partner, A. Soriano Corporation. Proceeds from the sale will be used to reduce outstanding borrowings on the Company's North American and European asset based revolving credit facility.

8:01 am Middleby announced the acquisition of Desmon Food Service Equipment Co, a Nusco, Italy based co with annual revenues of ~$15 mln USD; terms not disclosed (MIDD) :  

8:00 am Sphere 3D enters multi-year OEM embedded agreement with Microsoft (MSFT) (ANY) : Co announced that it has entered into a multi-year, global OEM Embedded Agreement with Microsoft Corporation that allows for the pre-installation of Microsoft Windows Embedded Server software in appliances that utilize Glassware 2.0 application virtualization technology. Through this agreement with Microsoft, Sphere 3D will be able to offer customers Glassware 2.0 application virtualization appliances with Windows Embedded Server preinstalled. 

7:58 am GasLog announced it has entered into an agreement with Methane Services Ltd., an affiliate of BG Group, to acquire two modern tri-fuel diesel electric LNG carriers for a cost of $460 mln (GLOG) : Co has entered into an agreement with Methane Services Ltd., an affiliate of BG Group, to acquire two modern tri-fuel diesel electric LNG carriers for a cost of $460 million. The two vessels, Methane Becki Anne and Methane Julia Louise, will be chartered back to BG for periods of nine and eleven years with further options by the charterer to extend the term of the time charter for each vessel by either three or five years.

7:51 am Navios Maritime announced several senior leadership changes effective as of January 1, 2015 (NM) :

  • Shunji Sasada has been promoted to President of Navios Corporation and appointed as a member of the board of Navios Holdings
  • Ted C. Petrone has been appointed as Vice Chairman of Navios Corporation
  • Tom Beney has joined Navios Corporation as Senior Vice President - Commercial Affairs

7:41 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • The U.S. Department of the Navy has awarded Accenture Federal Services (ACN) five task orders under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract to provide information technology support and training for the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning system. Each task order has a one-year period of performance. The total value of all five task orders is $19.8 million.
  • EnPro Industries (NPO) announced that the Company's remaining $23,441,000 aggregate principal amount of 3.9375% Convertible Senior Debentures due 2015 will continue to be convertible by holders of the Debentures through March 31, 2015. Conversion rights remain in effect because the closing price per share of EnPro's common stock has exceeded $43.93, or 130% of the initial conversion price of $33.79, for at least 20 of the 30 consecutive trading days ending on December 31, 2014.
  • Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (KERX) announced it has begun shipping AURYXIA (ferric citrate) tablets to wholesalers in the U.S.  Auryxia is approved for the control of serum phosphorus levels in patients with chronic kidney disease on dialysis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Auryxia in September 2014.
  • Tribune Media Company (TRCO) announced that it has sold its property at 300 East Cromwell Street in Baltimore, Maryland, to a qualified buyer for a price of $46.5 million.  The net proceeds of the transaction, after deduction of transaction costs and taxes, are expected to be approximately $30 million.
  • Mylan (MYL) announced the U.S. launch of its Estradiol Transdermal System USP, 0.025 mg/day, 0.0375 mg/day, 0.05 mg/day, 0.075 mg/day, and 0.1 mg/day (Twice Weekly), which is the generic version of Novartis' (NVS) Vivelle-DOT. 

7:34 am Owens-Illinois announced that it has named Andres Lopez President of glass containers and COO, effective February 1, 2015 (OI) : In this newly created role, Lopez will oversee O-I's business and operations in all of the company's geographic regions.

7:33 am Apricus Biosciences announces year-end 2014 update and 2015 plans to advance its clinical pipeline and further commercialize its erectile dysfunction drug vitaros (APRI) :

  • Co reviewed its 2014 corporate progress and its clinical development and commercialization plans for 2015.
  • During the fourth quarter of 2014, Apricus in-licensed the U.S. rights to fispemifene from Forendo Pharma. Fispemifene is an exciting new chemical entity with solid Phase 2 data that builds upon the Company's male urological focus.
  • Apricus will continue to leverage Vitaros as a cash-generating asset through growing royalty and milestone payments as the Company's commercial partners ramp up sales and expand the product's market reach via additional European launches.
  • Apricus will also continue to pursue out-license opportunities for Vitaros in Asia Pacific and Latin America and will work to support the launch of Vitaros by its distribution partner in Canada. Apricus plans to complete Phase 2 clinical trials for RayVa and fispemifene in 2015 and report RayVa Phase 2a study results by the end of the second quarter of 2015 and fispemifene Phase 2b study results in the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • Apricus will seek to fund operations and the continued development of these projects via cost-effective, shareholder-friendly means.

7:33 am Caesars Acquisition and Caesars (CZR) merge in all stock transaction: Each CACQ share will be exchanged for 0.664 share of CZR, valuing CACQ at $8.96 based on Friday's close (CACQ) : Caesars Entertainment (CZR) and Caesars Acquisition Company (CACQ) have entered into a definitive agreement to merge in an all-stock transaction. Upon completion of the merger and the proposed restructuring of Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, the merged co will be well capitalized and positioned for sustainable long-term growth and value creation.

  • Each outstanding share of Caesars Acquisition class A common stock will be exchanged for 0.664 share of Caesars Entertainment common stock, subject to adjustments set forth in the merger agreement, which would result in Caesars Entertainment stockholders owning ~62% of the combined company on a fully-diluted basis and Caesars Acquisition stockholders owning ~ 38%. No new debt will be issued in connection with the merger. 
  • The merged company will continue to be controlled by affiliates of Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital. 
  • The planned merger of Caesars Entertainment and Caesars Acquisition will also support the proposed restructuring of CEOC, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment. CEOC announced on December 19, 2014, that it and Caesars Entertainment had reached an agreement with CEOC's first lien noteholder steering committee regarding the terms of a comprehensive financial restructuring plan that will substantially reduce debt and lower interest payments. The successful completion of the merger will position the merged company to support the restructuring of CEOC without the need for any significant outside financing. 
  • The merged company will conduct business as Caesars Entertainment and continue to trade on the NASDAQ under the ticker CZR.

7:32 am Invacare announced that C. Martin Harris, has been appointed interim Chairman of the Company's Board of Directors (IVC) :

  • Co announced that C. Martin Harris, M.D., has been appointed interim Chairman of the Company's Board of Directors. Harris joined Invacare as a director in 2003 and was appointed Invacare's Lead Director effective May 17, 2012.
  • As Chief Information Officer and Chairman of the Information Technology Division of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Harris brings a wealth of healthcare, business and information technology-related leadership experience to Invacare

7:31 am TASER announced multiple orders of its TASER brand next generation Smart Weapons and Conducted Electrical Weapons; Ontario Provincial Police ordered 1,879 TASER X2 Smart Weapons (TASR) : The orders were received in and anticipated to ship in the fourth quarter of 2014.

7:31 am Bellatrix Exploration lowers 2015 capital budget 25% to $300 mln, updates 2015 production guidance, and achievement of 2014 exit rate production guidance (BXE) : The co notes that in light of the recent rapid declines in crude oil prices, it has decided it is prudent to revise its 2015 capital budget to $300 mln (from $400 mln) to maintain balance between delivering organic growth and preserving its strong financial position in a lower commodity price environment.

  • The focus of the 2015 budget is twofold: to complete construction of Phase 1 of the Bellatrix O'Chiese Nees-Ohpawganu'ck deep-cut gas plant at Alder Flats, and to drill high rate of return Spirit River (Notikewin / Falher) liquids-rich natural gas wells where production can be processed through the new plant. The Company's Cardium drilling program will be tempered to focus on expiring leases and commitment wells until oil prices recover.
  • The $100 million or 25% reduction in the 2015 capital budget from our previously announced expectation reflects a reduced drilling budget and a deferral of the timing of construction of Phase 2 of the deep-cut gas plant. Based on Bellatrix's forecast capacity requirements, the on-stream date of Phase 2 of the new deep-cut gas plant can be deferred until Q4 2016 from the original on stream date of Q2 2016 with no change in capital cost, which will then allow the Company access to approximately 80,000 boe/d of processing capacity. 
  • As a corollary of the reduced capital budget, the co is reducing its previously announced 2015 average production guidance range to approximately 47,000 to 48,000 boe/d (70% natural gas, 30% liquids). The midpoint of this 2015 average production guidance range reflects an organic growth rate of approximately 23% over the expected 2014 average daily production guidance of approximately 38,500 boe/d.

7:31 am Enpro Industries announced it has acquired Fabrico, terms not disclosed; also announced it has completed the sale of its GRT business unit to GRT Rubber Technologies for $44 mln (NPO) :  

7:30 am Achillion Pharma follow up: Color on ACHN -- up ~60% premarket following positive data; ABBV/ESRX deal increases competition in HCV space (ACHN) : ACHN is +60% at new all time highs in the premarket after announcing positive data on ACH-3102 in HCV (hepatitis C).

In other news in the HCV space this morning, Gilead Sciences (GILD) is down 7% premarket after Express Scripts (ESRX) agreed to make AbbVie's (ABBV) Hep C drug (Viekira Pak, approved on Friday) the exclusive treatment for most patients. See Bloomberg story for more color.

ACHN is viewed as an acquisition target for its attractive HCV franchise, where there is a lot of competition among big pharma/biotech; the stock is up ~600% YTD.

  • GILD's Solvaldi for Hep C was the biggest drug launch of all time but its newer regimen Harvoni will now see competition from ABBV's Viekira Pak. 
FBR Capital on November 10: "We believe possible suitors could be any company with an existing HCV franchise, including both Gilead and AbbVie, as well as Bristol-Myers, Johnson & Johnson, and Roche."

7:30 am ContraFect receives FDA approval to initiate clinical trials of CF-301 for MRSA bloodstream infections (CFRX) :

  • Co announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) completed the review of its submission and has removed the full clinical hold on ContraFect's investigational new drug (IND) application for CF-301.
  • This action allows for the initiation of clinical trials, which ContraFect expects to commence in Q1 2015.

7:28 am European Markets : FTSE...6596.10...+50.80...+0.80%.  DAX...9886.39...+99.40...+1.00%.

7:28 am Asian Markets : Nikkei...17635.14...+13.70...+0.10%.  Hang Seng...23408.57...+291.90...+1.30%.

7:25 am Asian Markets Close: Nikkei +0.1%, Hang Seng +1.3%, Shanghai +0.6% (:SUMRX) :

  • Markets rallied across Asia. 
  • Taiwan's unemployment rate held at 3.87%. 
  • Japan's Nikkei (+0.1%) put in a fourth straight gain. The advance was limited as heavyweight Fast Retailing surrendered 0.5%. 
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng (+1.3%) neared a two-week high and reclaimed the 200 dma. Energy names provided support as coal-based China Shenhua Energy surged 5.4% and Cnooc advanced 4.9%. 
  • China's Shanghai Composite (+0.6%) closed at levels last seen in November 2010. Financials paced the advance as Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China surged the limit, 10%.
  • India's Sensex (+1.2%) captured the 50 dma. Coal India led the way, up 3.8%, after reports indicated Prime Minister Modi may use executive privilege to reform the space.
  • Australia's ASX (+1.9%) jumped to a one-month high as trade recouped the 50, 100, and 200 dma. 
  • Regional Decliners: Indonesia -0.4% 
  • Regional Advancers: Philippines +0.2%...South Korea +0.7%...Taiwan +1.1%...Thailand +1.5%...Singapore +1.6%...Malaysia +1.6%...Vietnam +2.8% 
  • Fx: USDCNY ticked up to 6.2216, its best since June...USDINR slipped to 63.24...USDJPY +35 pips @ 119.80...AUDUSD +5 pips @ .8150

7:17 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • China HGS Real Estate (HGSH) announced that the Company received government's subsidies in the amount of approximately $1.73 million for its Shanty Area Reform Project surrounding Liang Zhou Road located in Hantai District, Hanzhong City.
  • Kratos Defense & Security Solutions (KTOS) announced that its subsidiary, Composite Engineering, has received a $72.3 million award, including options, from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Armament Directorate, Test and Training Division, Aerial Targets Branch for delivery of three Lots of AFSAT target drones and technical support. Contract performance, including options, is expected to be executed through 2018.
  • Main Street Capital Corporation (MAIN) announced that it recently led a new portfolio investment totaling $45.0 million of invested capital to facilitate the purchase of the assets of Garlock Rubber Technologies, a division of a subsidiary of EnPro Industries, with Main Street funding $29.8 million of the investment.
  • Brookdale Senior Living (BKD) announced that it has entered into an amended and restated $500 million credit facility with lenders led by GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services, as administrative agent.  The amended facility replaces the Company's existing $250 million revolving credit facility and extends the maturity date from March 31, 2018 to January 3, 2020.  
  • NICE Systems (NICE) announced that the San Antonio Military Medical Center, is in the process of deploying the NICE Suspect Search video analytics solution. 
  • Equifax (EFX) announced it has signed a significant multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership agreement with the UK Government for debt recovery services to be managed through TDX Group - an Equifax Company.
  • Can-Fite BioPharma (CANF) announced that it has dosed the first patient in a Phase II trial for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Myriad Genetics (MYGN) announced the appointment of Bernard F. Tobin as president of Crescendo Bioscience, effective January 5, 2015. Mr. Tobin will report to Peter D. Meldrum, president and CEO, Myriad Genetics, Inc., and will succeed William Hagstrom, who has chosen to pursue new start-up business and social venture opportunities.
  • Prima BioMed (PBMD) announced that it has received a Notice of Grant from the Canadian Patent Office for Patent application CA 2,732,570 entitled "Use of MHC class II Ligands as Adjuvants for Vaccination and of LAG-3 in Cancer Treatment." This patent is licensed from the Institute Gustave Roussy and Merck Serono SA.

7:12 am Sierra Wireless announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Maingate for $90 mln in cash; expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings (SWIR) : Maingate provides managed M2M connectivity and information management services to more than 500 customers across Europe, reaching a subscriber base of more than 500,000 connected devices.

  • Maingate expects 2014 revenue of over $19 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $6 million. Sierra Wireless expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings.

7:10 am Tesco guides Q4 below consensus following oil price decline (TESO) : Co issues downside guidance for Q4 (Dec), sees EPS of $0.10-0.15, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $0.32 Capital IQ Consensus. 

  • "The rapid decline in energy prices has impacted drilling activity and consequently reduced our customer's planned capital spending. TESCO has experienced the impact of these developments during the fourth quarter and that has reduced expectations for both revenue and earnings this quarter. 
  • These developments have affected the demand for TESCO's capital equipment as some customers have requested to defer shipment of several top drives and Casing Drilling Systems (:CDS) units from the fourth quarter of 2014 to 2015. In addition, we have received some order cancellations that will impact the fourth quarter and 2015. We now expect to ship ~25-27 top drives in the fourth quarter. We plan to book ~15-17 new top drives during the fourth quarter before cancellations. 
  • We have also experienced tubular service activity declines, primarily in North America as well as some temporary activity disruptions in Mexico and Argentina. Russia remains slow as its economic conditions continue to decline. We believe that customers in other international markets served by TESCO will base their decisions on longer term factors and their response to current market conditions is expected to be more measured. 
  • As a result, we do not expect revenues in the fourth quarter to improve sequentially (consensus $150 mln vs. $142 mln in Q3) and they are now expected to be closer to the first half run rate. Profitability will also be adversely impacted in the fourth quarter as revenue declines faster than costs. In addition, we expect to incur certain non-recurring charges involving the recent Russian currency devaluation, warranty reserves and costs associated with executive retirement. These particular non-recurring charges will impact net earnings by approximately $0.08 - $0.10 per diluted share."

7:07 am Nxstage Medical receives FDA clearance for home nocturnal hemodialysis (NXTM) :

  • Co announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) has cleared its System One to perform hemodialysis overnight while the patient is at home sleeping, known as home nocturnal hemodialysis.
  • NxStage's System One is the first and only hemodialysis machine cleared by the FDA for this indication.

7:04 am Express Scripts confirmed an update to its National Preferred Formulary that will expand access to AbbVie's (ABBV) new medication, Viekira PakC (ESRX) : The co notes Viekira Pak, approved by the FDA on December 19, was determined to be at least clinically equivalent to Harvoni and Sovaldi by Express Scripts' independent Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee.

  • As a result of the committee's determination, Viekira Pak will immediately be added to the Express Scripts formulary, and will be the exclusive option for patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C, regardless of symptoms or disease progression, starting January 1, 2015. 
  • Beginning January 1, 2015, Sovaldi, Harvoni and Olysio will be excluded from the National Preferred Formulary. Sovaldi, Harvoni and Olysio will continue to be available for patients who have already begun treatment regimens. Sovaldi will be available for patients with other hepatitis C genotypes who have advanced liver disease. 
  • The co further notes that, "unlike pricier hepatitis C medications that many U.S. payers were covering only for patients experiencing stage 3 or 4 liver disease, Viekira Pak will be available for all clinically appropriate plan members covered by the Express Scripts National Preferred Formulary."

7:03 am iRadimed resumes domestic distribution of infusion pumps; will guide FY15 on January 12 (IRMD) : Co has resumed domestic distribution of its MRI compatible MRidium 3860 IV infusion pump systems. This follows a September 2, 2014 announcement that the Company received a warning letter from the FDA requesting that it cease commercial distribution of its MRI IV infusion pumps and submit a 510(k). The Company submitted the 510(k) on November 24, 2014 and it was formally accepted for review by the FDA on Dec 12, 2014. The separately sold DERS (Dose Error Reduction System) option (P/N 1145) will not be made available again until the pending 510(k) is cleared by the FDA.

"Given the timing of this step we expect a marginal increase in revenue and earnings for the fourth quarter 2014 compared to our guidance and expect to issue 2015 revenue and earnings guidance on January 12th."

7:03 am RXi Pharma issues open letter to shareholders; says 'The Company's ongoing clinical trials with RXI-109 continue to be on track' (RXII) : "In the past few days a number of inaccurate statements posted on certain social media sites seem to have caused harm to our Company and its shareholders. These inaccurate statements followed on Friday, December 19th after our announcement of our entry into an agreement to acquire rights to a second Phase 2 asset.  These third party statements have caused concerns with our shareholders and have seemingly negatively affected our share price that day. We wish to dispel these rumors and address the misleading remarks head-on by re-emphasizing how our recent activities are expected to contribute to the future growth of our Corporation."

  • "The Company's ongoing clinical trials with RXI-109 continue to be on track.  We issued a press release on December 17, 2014 announcing the completion of enrollment in our first Phase 2a study, RXI-109-1301, and confirmed that the preliminary results from the 3-month observations confirmed the 1-month findings that were reported in September of this year."
  • "Contrary to allegations made in social media last week, our recent announcement, as well as our earlier reports on our ophthalmology franchise, with an ophthalmology IND to be submitted for RXI-109 planned for Q2 2015, and the synthesis of potent sd-rxRNA compounds against VEGF, collectively demonstrate that the progress with our technology platform is far from stagnant. Add to that our recent patent submissions on newly synthesized sd-rxRNA compounds against collagenase and tyrosinase, and we feel that the Company has made and continues to make a strong statement about the value of the platform for the future of RXi Pharmaceuticals."

7:02 am Carlyle and Warburg Pincus have agreed to acquire DBRS, a global credit rating agency; terms not disclosed (CG) :  

7:01 am Auxilium Pharma and partners Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB's (publ) (Sobi) Xiapex receives positive opinion by CHMP for the treatment of Peyronie's disease (AUXL) :

  • Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB (publ) (Sobi) and partner Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA.TO) has adopted a positive opinion for the use of Xiapex (collagenase clostridium histolyticum) for the treatment of adult men with Peyronie's disease with a palpable plaque and curvature deformity of at least 30 degrees at the start of therapy.
  • The use of Xiapex in men with Peyronie's disease is supported by positive safety and efficacy outcome data from two double-blind placebo-controlled studies IMPRESS I and II (Investigation for Maximal Peyronie's Reduction Efficacy and Safety Studies).

7:01 am Uroplasty and Vision-Sciences (VSCI) announce merger agreement; two companies will combine in an all-stock transaction to create a new company (both stocks halted) (UPI) : Uroplasty (UPI) and Vision-Sciences (VSCI) announced they will combine in an all-stock transaction to create a new company.

  • The transaction is expected to qualify as a tax free reorganization under the Internal Revenue Code. 
  • Each outstanding share of Uroplasty's common stock will be exchanged for 3.6331 shares of Vision-Sciences' common stock (VSCI's closing price was  $1.01). 
  • Upon completion of the merger, Uroplasty shareholders will own 62.5% of the shares of the combined company on a fully-diluted basis, and Vision-Sciences shareholders will own 37.5%. 
  • In connection with this transaction, the convertible promissory notes held by Mr. Pell will be amended. The maturity date of the amended notes will be five years from the date of the closing the merger, and interest accrued under the notes shall be calculated quarterly and payable on the maturity date or upon repayment or conversion of all or any portion of the principal. 

7:01 am Currencies See Quiet Overnight Trade: 10Y: -03/32..2.175%..USD/JPY: 119.73..EUR/USD: 1.2257 (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index holds small losses near 80.50 as news and data from around the world was absent.
  • The early weakness has knocked the greenback off its best levels in more than eight and a half years
  • EURUSD is +35 pips @ 1.2260 as trade ticks off levels last seen in August 2012. The bid in the single currency comes amid a lack of news and data from the region and has action climbing off key support in the 1.2000/1.2200 area.
  • GBPUSD is -20 pips @ 1.5600 as light selling takes hold for a second session. Trade has been trapped between 1.5600/1.5800 for the past month and a half. 
  • USDCHF is -25 pips @ .9810 as action slips off the best levels since August 2012. The light selling comes as the franc remains closely correlated to the euro. 
  • USDJPY is +25 pips @ 119.70. The overnight bid has the pair higher for a fourth straight session and testing minor resistance in the area. Click here to see a daily USDJPY chart.
  • AUDUSD is +5 pips @ .8150 as trade lingers at 54-month lows. The hard currency has lost ground in 14 of the past 17 sessions. USDCNY ticked up to 6.2219, its highest since late-June
  • USDCAD is +5 pips @ 1.1605 as trade holds just shy of the best levels since July 2009. A quiet overnight trade has kept the pair in a tight 40 pip range.

7:00 am Synthetic Biologics announced positive topline safety and tolerability results from a Phase 1a clinical trial of SYN-004; Ahead of schedule for Phase 2 testing to begin in 1st Quarter 2015 (SYN) : The co notes that since December 2nd, the randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 1a clinical trial conducted at Clinical Pharmacology of Miami, has enrolled 24 healthy volunteers in three cohorts of eight patients each. A total of 18 volunteers have been administered one dose of SYN-004 at increasing dose levels by cohort, and six volunteers received placebo. No clinically significant or relevant adverse events have been reported to date.

  • "Based on the results observed in the first three cohorts, and per our clinical plan, we intend to proceed with our planned multiple-ascending dose placebo-controlled Phase 1b study of SYN-004, in which healthy volunteers will receive increasing doses of SYN-004 over several days. We expect enrollment into our Phase 1b SYN-004 clinical trial to begin before year-end, with topline data available during the first quarter of 2015. We also expect to initiate enrollment in a Phase 2 SYN-004 clinical trial ahead of schedule during the first quarter of 2015."

6:58 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Hydrogenics (HYGS) announced that it has been awarded contracts to supply two 700 bar hydrogen fueling stations -- one by Ontario CNG in California and another by Aberdeen City, Scotland. These wins bring to nine the total number of hydrogen station contracts secured during 2014, the vast majority of which will be shipped and recognized as revenue in 2015.
  • Oncolytics Biotech (ONCY) announced that it has submitted applications for Orphan Designation to the European Medicines Agency for REOLYSIN for the treatment of pancreatic and ovarian cancers.
  • Abengoa (ABGB) announced it has been selected by Endesa to develop a new electric transmission project in southern Chile that will connect the Hydro Los C ndores plant with Ancoa substation. Abengoa will be responsible for the engineering, supply, construction, installation, testing and commissioning of the line of 87 km and 220 kV. The project has an estimated 24-month execution period and 320 jobs will be created within that period.
  • IFM Investments Limited (CTC) announced that it has signed two memorandums of understanding, with Yinhu.com, an online financing platform funded by Panda Fireworks Group, and Yooli.com to provide online financial services in China.
  • Qualcomm Technologies, a subsidiary of Qualcomm (QCOM), EE and Huawei announced the companies have successfully completed inter-company interoperability testing of LTE Category 9 connectivity with 3-carrier downlink aggregation
  • Cray (CRAY) announced that the University of Hawaii has put a Cray CS cluster supercomputer into production. The new Cray system is the University's first centralized high performance computing system, and will be located on the UH Manoa Campus in a new state-of-the-art 8,000 square foot, Silver LEED Certified data center.
  • New Senior Investment Group (SNR) announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire a 17-property portfolio of private pay, independent living senior housing properties from affiliates of Hawthorn Retirement Group LLC for approximately $435 million. The Company expects to invest approximately $135 million of existing cash to acquire the Portfolio and to fund the remainder of the purchase price with debt.
  • Boeing (BA) confirmed that Air China has committed to purchase 60 737s, including Next-Generation 737 and 737 MAX airplanes. The commitment when finalized will be valued at more than $6 billion at current list prices.
  • Tuniu (TOUR) announced that it has added another 15 new regional service centers, increasing the Company's penetration into China's rapidly growing lower-tier cities. With new regional service centers in 15 additional cities, Tuniu now has a total of 75 service centers and 95 departure cities throughout China.
  • NetSuite (N) announced that electrical and electronic component distributor Compomax, has turned to NetSuite to support its steep growth trajectory in Thailand.
  • TAL Education Group (XRS) announced that TAL has invested approximately $15 million in Guokr, a mobile and web-based community for science and technology education in China, for Guokr's minority equity interest.
  • The Saudi Arabian Mining Company and Alcoa (AA) announced that the alumina refinery at their joint venture aluminum complex in Saudi Arabia has successfully produced its first alumina from Saudi Arabian bauxite. The alumina refinery at Ras Al Khair is the first ever refinery to be constructed and operated in the region.

6:57 am Astronics announces Test Systems order; sees FY15 revs above consensus (ATRO) : Astronics Test Systems has been awarded a follow-on order from its largest customer valued at ~$88 mln. The order is for several, highly-engineered production test systems, and includes on-site engineering and uptime support for the installed units.

With this order, Astronics preliminarily expects 2015 consolidated revenue to be in the range of $655-695 mln vs. $665.9 mln consensus. The Test Systems segment is projected to generate ~20% of total revenue, while the remainder will be provided by the Aerospace Segment. The Company will expand on this preliminary guidance for 2015 with its 2014 financial results release.

6:55 am Achillion Pharma spikes 64% after announcing positive data on hepatitis C treatment (ACHN) :

  • ACHN is trading above $24 in the pre-market after announcing positive data on ACH-3102 in HCV (hepatitis C) -- see 5:33 comment for details. 
  • Co reported that a Nuc regimen of ACH-3102 and sofosbuvir was safe and well-tolerated with 100 percent SVR4 for treatment-na ve genotype 1 HCV. 
  • Co's CEO said "We look forward to initiating in 2015 short duration, pan-genotypic Phase 2 therapeutic trials to evaluate the doublet of ACH-3102 and ACH-3422, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care and access to treatment."
  • Co is holding a conference call and webcast being hosted at 8:30 a.m. EST this morning.

6:37 am Anthem acquires Simply Healthcare -- terms not disclosed; neutral to FY15 EPS; reaffirms FY14 EPS (ANTM) : Co will acquire Simply Healthcare Holdings, which, through its two subsidiaries, Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc. and Better Health, Inc., is a leading managed care co for people enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare programs in the state of Florida. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

  • The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2015 and is subject to certain state regulatory approvals. 
  • The transaction is expected to be neutral to earnings in 2015. 
  • Co reaffirms FY14 EPS $8.75-8.85 vs. $8.85 consensus.

6:33 am Achillion Pharma announced positive interim results from two studies supporting a short duration, potentially best-in-disease regimen of its proprietary NS5A and nucleotide inhibitors (ACHN) : The co announced 100% SVR4 results from the ongoing six-week trial. This study is an interferon-free, ribavirin-free, Phase 2 open-label, randomized study to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of six weeks of 50 mg of ACH-3102 and 400 mg of sofosbuvir, a marketed nucleotide polymerase inhibitor, once daily, in treatment-na ve genotype 1 HCV-infected patients. The primary objective of the study is determination of sustained viral response 12 weeks after completion of therapy.

  • Four weeks after the completion of therapy, 100% (n=12/12) achieved SVR4, independent of baseline viral load, gender, and IL28B status. No post-treatment viral relapse has been observed to date. SVR12 results will be reported during the first half of 2015. The combination of ACH-3102 and sofosbuvir was well-tolerated with no serious adverse events, no discontinuations due to adverse events, and no clinically significant laboratory or ECG abnormalities.
  • The co also announced interim study results demonstrating that ACH-3422 achieved proof-of-concept in a Phase 1 trial for patients with treatment-na ve genotype 1 HCV. In the 700 mg dose group, mean maximal reduction in HCV viral RNA load of 4.8 log10 IU/ml was observed within 14 days with 3 out of 6 patients achieving undetectable HCV RNA (target not detected"). The pharmacodynamic characteristics of ACH-3422 provided sustained antiviral activity resulting in an additional 1.4 log10 reduction in HCV RNA between day 7 and day 14 of dosing.

6:31 am Immunogen announces the appointment of Richard J. Gregory, as EVP, Research and Chief Scientific Officer (IMGN) : Dr. Gregory will join the Company on January 5, 2015, at which time current CSO, John Lambert, Ph.D., will assume the position of Executive Vice President, Distinguished Research Fellow. Dr. Gregory brings to ImmunoGen deep scientific and research management experience, most recently serving as senior vice president and head of research for the Sanofi (SNY) Genzyme Research & Development Center

6:24 am Exeter Resource announced the expanded water drilling program (for its Caspiche gold-copper project in northern Chile continues to provide encouraging results (XRA) :

  • Progress to date includes completion of two additional large diameter water bore holes and two smaller diameter water monitoring holes. As expected significant water has been encountered in all drill holes. Down hole pump tests, a definitive measurement technique to quantify water flow rates and the recharge rate of an aquifer, have recently commenced. The Company expects to have pump tests completed on all remaining large diameter drill holes in January, 2015. 
  • The standalone oxide open pit mine plan benefits from lower up front capital requirements and sequenced higher start up grades in the initial part of the mine life. In addition, a very low life-of-mine strip ratio and favourable leach kinetics are positive contributors to the project economics. 
  • At US$1,300/oz gold pre-tax net present value is US$355 million, generating an internal rate of return of 34.7%, and a payback period of 3.4 years from initial construction.

6:22 am Macrogenics enters collaboration and license agreement with Janssen to develop MGD011 for multiple b-cell malignancies; MacroGenics will receive a $50 mln upfront license fee (MGNX) :

  • Under the terms of the agreement and subject to the termination or expiration of any applicable waiting periods under Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, MacroGenics will receive a $50 mln upfront license fee and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Innovation - JJDC, Inc. will invest $75 mln to purchase 1,923,077 new shares of MacroGenics common stock at a price of $39.00 per share.  
  • Janssen will be fully responsible for developing MGD011 following submission of the IND, which is planned for 2015.  Assuming successful development and commercialization, MacroGenics could receive up to an additional $575 mln in clinical, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments.  
  • MacroGenics may elect to fund a portion of late-stage clinical development in exchange for a profit share in the U.S. and Canada. If commercialized, MacroGenics would be eligible to receive double-digit royalties on any global net sales and has the option to co-promote the molecule with Janssen in the U.S.

6:20 am Agria reiterated its previously issued guidance and reaffirmed its expectation for improvement on last year's operating EBITDA of $58.7 million (GRO) :

  • Co announced that its subsidiary, PGG Wrightson Limited reiterated its previously issued guidance and reaffirmed its expectation for improvement on last year's operating EBITDA of $58.7 million, excluding earnings of associates. 
  • PGW noted that its financial performance so far in the fiscal year is meeting expectations despite lower forecasted dairy payouts.

6:18 am Provectus Pharma to meet with FDA on operational aspects of PV-10 Phase 3 melanoma study with aim to maximize speed of enrollment (PVCT) : Co announced that it will be meeting with the FDA to review certain operational aspects of the protocol for its planned phase 3 clinical trial of intralesional PV-10, its novel investigational drug for cancer, as a treatment for melanoma. No date for this meeting has been agreed upon as yet.

6:16 am John Wiley & Sons announces retirement of chairman Peter Booth Wiley (JW.A) :

  • Co announced that Chairman Peter Booth Wiley has declared his intention to retire as Chair after his current term expires in September 2015. Wiley's Board of Directors has identified Matthew Kissner as Mr. Wiley's recommended successor. 
  • The Board agreed at its meeting on December 18 to recommend that Mr. Kissner's name be placed on the slate of board candidates for election in September 2015. If he is re-elected, the Board has stated its intention to appoint him as Wiley's next chair. 
  • The Board also agreed to recommend that Wiley's name be placed on the same slate for election as a director for one year starting in September 2015.

6:16 am Magellan Petroleum announced that its partners in the Horse Hill-1 well in southern England have reported a conventional discovery in the Upper Portland sandstone (MPET) :

  • Co announced that its partners in the Horse Hill-1 well in southern England have reported a conventional discovery in the Upper Portland sandstone and have materially revised upward their P50 estimate of original oil in place  in this section to 5.2 MMbbls. More importantly, HH-1 has confirmed that the Upper Jurassic section is thermally mature and contains two thick limestone intervals that may act as conventional reservoirs for a significant oil play in the Weald Basin. 
  • Magellan and its partners have reached these conclusions after analysis of detailed log data, and more data will be available in the near future.

6:14 am Nordic American Tanker: Final agreement signed for the building of two new suezmax tankers; The purchase price of the two newbuilding vessels is in the region of $65 million each (NAT) :

  • Co announced that preliminary contracts had been entered into with a South Korean shipyard, for the construction of two suezmax tankers to be delivered in the third quarter 2016 and first quarter 2017. 
  • The final documents were signed December 19, 2014. The contracts are now firm, bringing the NAT fleet to 24 suezmax crude oil tankers, being able to transport one million barrels of oil each. 
  • The purchase price of the two newbuilding vessels is in the region of $65 million each, which is expected to be financed by the internal resources of NAT. 
  • The stage payments to the yard by NAT during construction will be guaranteed by a first class bank.

6:12 am Mecox Lane to sell interest in giosis mecoxlane joint venture for consideration of $2.0 mln (MCOX) : Co announced that the Company has entered into a share purchase agreement on December 19, 2014 with Oak Investment Partners, pursuant to which the Company has sold its entire equity interest in its joint venture, Giosis Mecoxlane, for consideration of $2.0 mln.

6:11 am BioCryst Pharm receives FDA approval for the treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza (BCRX) :

  • Co announced that the FDA has approved RAPIVAB neuraminidase inhibitor for the treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza in patients 18 years and older who have been symptomatic for no more than two days.

6:10 am Syngenta Receives chinese import approval for Agrisure Viptera (SYT) :

  • Co announced that it has received the safety certificate for its Agrisure Viptera trait from China's regulatory authorities, formally granting import approval. The approval covers corn grain and processing byproducts, such as dried distillers grains, for food and feed use.

6:09 am Pluristem Therapeutics: New published data show Pluristem's PLX cells protect neurons (PSTI) :

  • Co announced that a study of PLacental eXpanded cells was accepted for publication in the February, 2015 issue of Biochimica et Biophysica Acta Molecular Cell Research. 
  • The study results show that PLX cells protect PC12 cells -- an established model of various nerve cells including dopaminergic neurons -- from death after oxygen and glucose deprivation. The protective effects of PLX cells were strongly correlated with the secretion of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and vascular endothelial growth factor, which are known to have neuroprotective effects in humans with injuries to the nervous system that can occur after events such as a stroke.

6:05 am Auxilium Pharma and Swedish Orphan Biovitrum announced that CHMP and EMA adopted a positive opinion for the use of Xiapex (AUXL) :

  • Co announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency has adopted a positive opinion for the use of Xiapexfor the treatment of adult men with Peyronie's disease with a palpable plaque and curvature deformity of at least 30 degrees at the start of therapy.

5:58 am Affiliated Managers advanced metallurgical group NV signs agreement to sell 40% equity stake in AMG Graphit Kropfm hl Gmbh and 10.33% equity stake in Bogala Graphite Lanka PLC (AMG) :

  • Co announced the signing of a definitive agreement to sell a 40% equity interest in AMG Graphit Kropfm hl GmbH by way of a capital increase in combination with a 10.33% equity interest in Bogala Graphite Lanka to Alterna Capital Partners for a combined cash price of $38 mln. 
  • The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2015 and is subject to certain closing conditions including regulatory approvals.

5:56 am Radius Health announces positive Phase 3 top-line results for its investigational drug abaloparatide-sc in postmenopausal women with severe osteoporosis (RDUS) :

  • On the primary endpoint, the investigational drug abaloparatide-SC (n=690, fracture rate 0.72%) achieved a statistically significant 83% reduction of incident vertebral fractures as compared to the placebo-treated group (n=711, fracture rate 4.36%) (p
  • On the secondary endpoints as compared to placebo, abaloparatide-SC achieved a statistically significant fracture-rate reduction of 43% in the adjudicated non-vertebral fracture subset of patients; a statistically significant reduction of 41% in the adjudicated clinical fracture group, which includes both vertebral and non-vertebral fractures; and a statistically significant difference in the time to first incident non-vertebral fracture in both the adjudicated non-vertebral fracture and the clinical fracture subset of patients.
  • "We are on track for NDA submission in the second half of 2015 and encouraged by the consistency of our Phase 3 results with those from our two Phase 2 studies...These results reinforce the emerging profile of abaloparatide, and we eagerly await the first six-month results from the ongoing ACTIVExtend trial expected in the second quarter of 2015."

5:54 am Las Vegas Sands received the Macao government approvals needed to complete the construction of its $2.7 billion Paris-themed integrated resort (LVS) : The completion of The Parisian Macao will bring Las Vegas Sands' total investment in Macao to more than $10 bln with the vast majority of that investment spent building, among other things, retail malls, convention and exhibition space and thousands of hotel rooms.

5:53 am American Apparel adopts new stockholder rights plan (APP) :

  • Co announced that its Board of Directors has adopted a new, one-year stockholder rights plan that is designed to strengthen the ability of the Board of Directors to protect the Company's stockholders. 
  • The Company's rights plan is similar to other plans adopted by publicly held companies and the prior rights plan adopted by the Company. If a person or group acquires 10% or more beneficial ownership of the Company's common stock, such person will be deemed to be an "Acquiring Person." 
  • If any person or group already beneficially owns 10% or more of the Company's common stock as of this announcement, such person or group (other than any person or group subject to standstill restrictions) will not be deemed to be an "Acquiring Person" unless such person acquires an additional 0.1% of the Company's common stock. 
  • In the event that a person becomes an "Acquiring Person," except pursuant to a qualifying offer for all outstanding shares of common stock which the Board of Directors determines to be fair and not inadequate and to otherwise be in the best interests of the Company and its stockholders, each right will entitle its holder to purchase, for $3.25 per share, a number of shares of the Company's common stock or substantially equivalent securities having a market value of twice such price. 

5:50 am Education Mgmt announces extension of exchange offer (EDMC) :

  • Co announced that it has extended until 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on December 26, 2014 the expiration date for its previously announced private offer to exchange  all outstanding Senior Cash Pay/PIK Notes due 2018 and Senior PIK Toggle Notes due 2018 issued by certain of its subsidiaries  for a combination of mandatory convertible preferred stock of EDMC and warrants to purchase common stock of EDMC. 
  • The Exchange Offer is being conducted in furtherance of the Company's previously announced financial restructuring (the "Restructuring"). The expiration date for the Exchange Offer had previously been 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on December 19, 2014.

5:49 am 21st Century Fox announced it blocked DISH (DISH) customer access to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, (FOXA) : Co announced it blocked DISH (DISH) customer access to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, as the media conglomerate introduced other channels into negotiations despite those channels not being included in the contract up for renewal.

5:48 am Jazz Pharma receives FDA approval for intravenous administration of Erwinaze (JAZZ) :

  • Co announced that the FDA approved the intravenous administration of Erwinaze. Erwinaze is indicated as a component of a multi-agent chemotherapeutic regimen for the treatment of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who have developed hypersensitivity to E. coli-derived asparaginase.
  • The updated product label provides data and information to help physicians understand the different administration options and determine which route of administration is most appropriate for their patients.

5:47 am Ever-Glory International announced that it will voluntarily transfer the listing of its common stock to The Nasdaq Global Market from NYSE MKT. (EVK) : Co announced that it will voluntarily transfer the listing of its common stock to The NASDAQ Global Market from NYSE MKT. Trading on The NASDAQ Global Market is expected to commence on December 31, 2014 under its current trading symbol "EVK". The Company's common stock will continue to trade on the NYSE MKT until the market close on December 30, 2014.

5:46 am Iron Mountain Reaches settlement agreement with US Government to resolve a civil complaint regarding pricing issues associated with Records Management (IRM) : Co announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a civil complaint regarding pricing issues associated with Records Management, Data Management and Secure Shredding services that the company provided under U.S. General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule contracts. Under the agreement, Iron Mountain will pay $44.5 million to resolve all GSA pricing issues.

5:45 am Cubist Pharma announces FDA approval of new antibiotic ZERBAXA (CBST) :

  • Co announced the FDA approved ZERBAXA for the treatment of adults with complicated urinary tract infections and complicated intra-abdominal infections (cIAI) caused by designated susceptible Gram-negative bacteria.
  • The approval of ZERBAXA was supported by positive data from two pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials-one in patients with cUTI and the other in patients with cIAI. Both trials met the pre-specified primary endpoints agreed upon with the FDA and European Medicines Agency.

5:42 am Enanta Pharmaceuticals announces FDA approves AbbVie's (ABBV) Viekira Pak; also reports indicate Express Scrips (ESRX) will cover ABBV's Hep C drug (ENTA) :

  • Co announced the FDA has approved AbbVie's (ABBV) VIEKIRA PAK with or without ribavirin for the treatment of genotype 1 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection, including those with compensated cirrhosis. 
  • The approval of VIEKIRA PAK is supported by a robust clinical development program conducted by AbbVie and designed to study the safety and efficacy of the regimen in more than 2,300 enrolled patients across 25 countries. 
  • The program consisted of six pivotal Phase 3 studies, which demonstrated that VIEKIRA PAK cured 95-100 percent of GT1a and GT1b hepatitis C patients, including patients new and experienced to treatment, and patients with compensated cirrhosis, with less than two percent of patients experiencing virological failure. Additionally, more than 98 percent of patients in clinical trials completed a full course of therapy. 
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