Markets & Finance

Movers: Hartford Financial, Boeing, Novell, Big Lots, Brown-Forman


Stocks in the news Friday

From Standard & Poor's Equity ResearchHartford Financial Services Group (HIG) rises 5.07 to 12.28 after the insurance company raises 2008 EPS guidance to $4.70-$4.90. Says operating businesses continue to perform well in challenging environment, reflecting strong underwriting in P&C operations and sharpening of focus in Life Operations. Also notes that year-end capital outlook for its Life and Property & Casualty operations remains strong.

Boeing (BA) may delay the first deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner airplane by at least six months due to the union machinists strike and other problems, according to The Wall Street Journal. Boeing is expected to announce that delivery might not occur until summer 2010, more than two years after the 787's originally scheduled delivery date and nearly a year more than its most recent schedule, the Journal reported.

Novell (NOVL) reported fiscal fourth quarter EPS of $0.06, meeting the consensus estimateof $0.06. For the fourth fiscal quarter of 2008, product revenue increased 6%, but was offset by a services revenue decline of 26%, resulting in total revenue of $244.7 million. Revenue was essentially flat from the prior year -- down 0.1% year-over-year -- and shy of the consensus estimate that called for $249.8 million. For the full fiscal year 2008, Novell's non-GAAP operating margin was 10%. Novell expects to improve on these results, but also said that given uncertainties regarding the economy it is targeting no less than 10% non-GAAP operating margin in the full fiscal year 2009.

Big Lots (BIG) reports third quarter EPS of $0.15 (excluding non-recurring items), matching the consensus forecast. Revenues fell 0.9% from a year ago to $1.02 billion, vs. the $1.03 billion consensus. The retailer issues in-line guidance for the fourth quarter, sees EPS of $0.90-0.99, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $0.99 consensus. Company issues in-line guidance for fiscal year 2009, sees EPS of $1.79-1.88, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $1.88 consensus. Third quarter 2008 comp store sales decreased 0.2%. For fourth quarter, company anticipates a comp store sale decrease of about 2%-4%.

Brown-Forman (BF.B) reports second quarter EPS of $0.94, $0.01 better than the consensus of $0.93. Revenues rose 4.6% from a year ago to $934.7 million vs the $923.8 million consensus. For fiscal year 2010, the company sees EPS of $2.98-3.08, excluding a $0.12 per share net gain on the expected sale of Bolla and Fontana Candida, vs. $3.05 consensus.

Safeway (SWY) rises 1.22 to 22.65 aftet UBS Financial upgrades to buy from neutral. Yesterday, SWY initiated 2009 EPS guidance at $2.34-$2.44.

Sonoco Products (SON) cuts $0.60-$0.64 fourth quarter EPS forecast to $0.48-$0.52 and $2.36-$2.40 2009 to $2.23-$2.27. Says its businesses that serve industrial markets are seeing much larger than expected decline in volume and reduced profitability due to significantly slowing global economic conditions. SON to close about 15 plants globally, cut about 700 positions for cost of about $29 million. Including projected impact of higher pension costs, it sees 2009 base EPS of $1.95-$2.05; excluding higher pension costs, sees base EPS of $2.25-$2.35.

Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX) announces changes to its clinical programs, mgmt as it moves to conserve resources, focus on its late-stage obesity program. The exploratory proof-of-concept Phase 2 trials for OREX-003 (zonisamide and olanzapine to mitigate antipsychotic-associated weight gain) and OREX-004 (fluoxetine and naltrexone to reduce symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder) will be discontinued. Also, Gary Tollefson resigned as director, president and CEO on Dec. 4, ending his previously announced leave of absence.

Jefferies & Co upgrades Red Hat (RHT) to buy from hold; it has a price target of $16.


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