Markets & Finance

AMR Corp. Advances on a Slump in Oil Prices


American Airline parent AMR Corp. (AMR) Continental (CAL), and other airlines are seen higher after oil prices dropped more than $1 a barrel. Oil prices fell in response to signs that OPEC might delay a planned output reduction, and news of a surge in U.S. crude oil inventories.

Avon Products (AVP) raised its 51 cents first-quarter earnings per share guidance to 59 cents, and upped its 2004 earnings per share estimate to $3.18 to $3.20. Avon says first-quarter sales growth is tracking towards a 19% increase. S&P upgraded to buy from accumulate. Prudential raised its estimates.

Morgan Stanley upgraded financial recruiting firm Robert Half International (RHI) to equal-weight from underweight. A Morgan Stanley broker says recent trends suggest that pend-up demand for labor may soon get unleashed.

S&P upgraded BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ) to buy from accumulate on recent price weakness.

S&P upgraded Mattel (MAT), the maker of Barbie and board games, to accumulate.

Video-game software maker Activision (ATVI) says based on better than expected performance of its publishing and distribution divisions, and an adjustment to the tax rate, it is raising the fourth-quarter outlook to 1 cent earnings per share, and raising the revenue outlook to $155 million. Activision now sees 50 cents fiscal 2004 earnings per share. Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Activision raised its revenue outlook to $1.55 million. We apologize for this error.

CS First Boston upgraded enterprise software maker Citrix Systems (CTXS) to outperform from neutral.

Interstate Bakeries (IBC) says based on preliminary results, it forecast an 8 cents to 10 cents third-quarter loss on 2.5% lower net sales. S&P reiterates sell. Prudential cut its estimates.

Merix (MERX), a maker of printed circuit boards, posted 19 cents third-quarter earnings per share (GAAP), vs. a 33 cents loss on a sharp sales rise. Merix sees 19 cents to 22 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share on sales of $46 million to $48 million.

Nanophase Technologies (NANX) and Altana Chemie AG formed an exclusive global partnership to supply certain nanomaterials for use in paints, coatings, and plastics.

Sharper Image (SHRP) posted $1.40, vs. $1.26 fourth-quarter earnings per share on 17% higher same-store sales and 29% higher total sales.

Eli Lilly (LLY) said its marketing and promotional activities are the subject of a civil investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pennsylvania. The company said it believes its Evista, Prozac, and Zyprexa products are the ones likely to be involved in the investigation, which it intends to cooperate with.

Yum Brands (YUM) reported U.S. blended-same store sales at company restaurants increased 4% during the four-week period ended Mar. 20. Yum, which operates Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and other quick-service restaurants, says the short term adverse impact of the avian-flu situation in Asia will be reflected in second-quarter results.

Merrill upgraded McCormick & Co. (MKC) to buy from neutral.

Human Genome (HGSI) plans to reduce the number of drugs in early development, and focus its resources on drugs that address the greatest unmet medical needs with substantial growth potential. Separately, Human Genome announced that CEO Dr. Haseltine plans to retire.

Medquist (MEDQ) says it will not be able to file its Annual Report on Form 10-K for 2003 with the SEC by the Mar. 30 extended filing deadline. Medquist says the review and finalization of its audited financial statements were not complete.

Friedman's (FRM) says it has received a Wells Notice from a division of the SEC, indicating that the division is considering recommending that the SEC authorize civil enforcement action in federal court against the company.

Micron Technology (MU) posted a 4 cents second-quarter loss, vs. a $1.02 loss on a 26% revenue rise. Revenue was below the Street's estimate. S&P cut its estimates, and keeps the hold opinion. Banc of America remains neutral.

ConAgra Foods (CAG) posted 36 cents, vs. 38 cents third-quarter earnings per share on a slight sales drop.

Tenet Healthcare (THC) says it, and certain of its subsidiaries, inked a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and other parties that ends the investigation of certain physician employment matters. The settlement agreement includes a total payment by Tenet of $30.75 million.


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