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Microsoft Jumps on an Analyst's Upgrade

Merrill upgraded Microsoft (MSFT) to buy, and added the stock to its Focus One List. A Merrill analyst said he sees potential for earnings per share upside, a possible increase in Microsoft's dividend due to tax changes, and valuation disparity to its peer software group.

Starbucks (SBUX) posted 27% higher consolidated net revenues for the 5-week period ended June 29, and a 10% rise in comp-store sales. Lehman raised its estimates.

Banc of America upgraded InterMune (ITMN) to buy from neutral, saying the replacement of CEO Scott Harkonen is a good start to rebuilding credibility with investors. Recently, InterMune lowered the fiscal 2003 guidance for pulmonary fibrosis treatment Actimmune.

First Albany tied Avid Technology's (AVID) stock-price rise in part to short covering ahead of a second-quarter earnings report. Also, he says channel checks and talks with post-production resellers remain positive on the new Adrenaline product.

Constellation Brands (STZ), the world's largest distributor of wines, posted 41 cents (including charges and financing costs) vs. 41 cents first-quarter earnings per share on a 19% revenue rise. Thomas Weisel cut its estimates.

Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACAI) and United Airlines were unable to reach an agreement regarding the United Express regional-jet operations program. Raymond James downgraded to market perform.

J.P. Morgan upgraded Kindred Healthcare (KIND) to overweight from neutral. On Tuesday Kindred announced the completion of a divestiture of Florida and Texas nursing center operations.

Baxter International (BAX) will take a 30-cent second-quarter charge for center closings, workforce cuts, and infrastructure cuts. Baxter sees 10 cents to 12 cents second-quarter earnings per share (including the charge). The health-care products maker cut the 2003 earnings per share from continuing operations guidance to $1.65-$1.75 (including the charge) on lower growth in its BioScience business. J.P. Morgan downgraded to neutral from overweight.

Benchmark Electronics (BHE) expects to meet or exceed the Street's second-quarter estimates. S&P reiterates avoid.

Monterey Pasta (PSTA) sees 2 cents to 3 cents second-quarter earnings per share, below analysts' consensus for 5 cents. The pasta maker cited a transition of products with a major customer, start-up issues with new packaging, and legal fees related to securities lawsuits. Monterey posted 10% higher second-quarter sales.

ArvinMeritor (ARM) agreed to sell its Light Vehicle Systems Columbus, Ind., exhaust tube manufacturing operation to AK Tube, a unit of AK Steel. Terms were not disclosed.

Invitrogen (IVGN) agreed to acquire Molecular Probes Inc, a leader in fluorescence-based technologies, for about $325 million.

J.P. Morgan upgraded to overweight from neutral.

Lehman Brothers says it's in talks with Neuberger Berman (NEU) regarding a potential combination.

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