Markets & Finance

Movers: Corning, Ambac, Lehman, Coca-Cola, Staples, ConAgra


Stocks on the move on Wednesday

From Standard & Poor's Equity Researchnow expected to be in range of $1.58-$1.62 billion, vs. previous guidance of $1.65-$1.72 billion. Says lower outlook primarily related to lower-than-expected shipments of LCD glass in its wholly-owned display business. S&P downgrades to buy from strong buy.

First Horizon National (FHN) expects that as a result of persisting market weakness, ongoing efforts to aggressively address problem loans, 2008 net charge-offs are likely to exceed previously expected range of $385-$485 million by about $100 million.

Ambac Financial Group

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) says it has received regulatory approval from the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin to capitalize and reactivate Connie Lee Insurance Company, its financial guarantee subsidiary. Connie Lee will conduct business under a new name and will focus on the U.S. municipal and global public purpose financing markets. ABK's Ambac Assurance unit will inject $850 million into Connie Lee which will operate as a separate corporate and legal entity within ABK.

Kohl's (KSS) posts 5.8% lower August same-store sales, 2.6% higher total sales. KSS said, as expected, August was more difficult than its forecast of a 2%-4% same-store sales decrease for the third quarter. Notes traditional back-to-school biz performed well, while other areas such as juniors and young men's were more challenging.

J.C. Penney (JCP) posts 4.9% lower August same-store sales, 3.2% lower total sales. Notes same-store sales were in line with its guidance for sales to decrease in mid-single digits.

Costco Wholesale (COST) posts 9% higher August total company same-store sales, 12% higher net sales. The four-week U.S. comparable sales figure includes, among other things, the effect of gasoline price inflation, with the average sales price per gallon of gasoline up 40%, as compared to the year-earlier August. Excluding gasoline price inflation, U.S. comparable sales would have been up 6%.

Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH) sees $0.20-$0.26 first quarter EPS, vs. Street expectations of $0.48-$0.49. Says it experienced substantially lower sales volumes in July and August than in the prior year.

Lehman Brothers (LEH): Times Online reports that Japan's biggest megabank, Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ is poised to enter the bidding for a substantial stake in LEH, and may even seek control of the ailing Wall Street titan, according to banking industry sources in Tokyo. Earlier today, WSJ reports hedge fund Ospraie, a big player in commodities, is shutting down its largest fund after "significant" losses. LEH bought 20% of Ospraie in 2005.

Coca-Cola (KO) offers $2.5 billion for major juicemaker China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd. (CYUNF.PK). The companies said Coca-Cola's wholly-owned subsidiary Atlantic Industries would purchase the Chinese company's shares for 12.20 Hong Kong dollars ($1.56) each, almost triple their last closing price.

Staples (SPLS) reports net income fell to $150.2 million, or 21 cents per share, from $178.8 million, or 25 cents per share. Analysts expected EPS of 21 cents. Sales jumped 18% to $5.07 billion from $4.29 billion, but same-store sales fell 7% as fewer customers come through the doors. Staples says it expects low single-digit earnings per share growth for the full year.

ConAgra Foods (CAG) sees $0.26-$0.28 first quarter EPS from continuing operations. It cites underperformance in its Consumer Foods segment, which incurred higher-than-planned inflation. Key areas of underperformance were cooking oils, tablespreads, Banquet frozen foods and popcorn. JP Morgan, Merrill reportedly downgrade.

NCI Building Systems (NCS) posts $1.63, vs. $1.02, third quarter EPS on 10% sales rise. Raises $3.19-$3.44 fiscal year 2008 EPS guidance to $3.85-$4.00. Cites "solid" demand for its diversified steel products and systems from industrial, institutional and agricultural customers.

MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) says increased softness in demand from its semiconductor applications customers, primarily due to their inventory reduction initiatives, plus continued potential for "unanticipated" events affecting its polysilicon production output warrant a continued degree of caution in its third quarter outlook. As a result, maintains previous third quarter targets which called for revenue of $560-$620 million and gross margin of 54%-55%. Sees higher-than-expected operating expenses.

Altera (ALTR) reaffirms that it expects third quarter sales to be flat to 3% lower compared to the second quarter of 2008.

Forest Laboratories (FRX) and Laboratorios Almirall announce results from two global Phase III studies of aclidinium bromide, a novel long-acting inhaled anticholinergic for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Say studies confirm bronchodilatory effect of aclidinium at the dose tested, although the magnitude was lower than seen in previous studies.


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