Sepracor Plunges as FDA Rejects Key Allergy Drug

Brocade says shareholder suit dismissed; SBA Communications climbs on an upgrade; plus more of today's stocks in the news

The FDA issued a non-approvable letter for Sepracor's (SEPR ) allergy drug Soltara. Merrill downgraded the shares to near term reduce/sell, and long term neutral from buy. UBS Warburg downgraded Sepracor to hold, while S&P maintains its neutral opinion.

Williams Cos. (WMB ) shares rose after the company agreed to sell its Kern River interstate natural gas pipeline business unit to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. for $450 million in cash and assumption of $510 million in debt.

Shares of General Motors (GM ) rose after Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock to near term buy from neutral. Merrill maintains its long term buy opinion. The company was unavailable for comment.

Brocade Communications (BRCD ) announced that a shareholder class action suit against the company was dismissed.

Michaels Stores (MIK ) reported $0.96 fourth quarter EPS (excluding charges) on an 11% total sales rise. The company posted 6% higher February same-store sales. AG Edwards upgraded the shares to strong buy from buy.

JP Morgan upgraded E*Trade (BRCD ) to buy from long term buy.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST ) shares surged after the company announced that the FDA indicated that a new drug application package for Cidecin antibiotic for the indication of complicated skin and soft tissue infections is acceptable for filing. JP Morgan and Pacific Growth upgraded the shares.

DB Alex Brown upgraded SBA Communications (SBAC ) to strong buy from buy.

Guidant (GDT ) closed lower after the company halted the further development of its actinomycin-D drug-eluting stent. S&P maintains accumulate after an 8:30 a.m. conference call, and maintains estimates.

Celgene (CELG ) shares ended lower after the company said it now intends to seek marketing approval for Thalomid in early stage multiple myeloma patients. S&P downgraded the shares.

Wal-Mart (WMT ) posted 16% higher February same store sales, and 10% higher total sales.

Gap (GPS ) posted 17% lower February same store sales, and 8% lower total sales. Gap also closed the sale of $1.2B aggregate principal amount of 5.75% convertible notes due March 15, 2009.

The FTC closed its review of Hewlett-Packard's (HWP ) pending merger with Compaq Computer (CPQ ), and imposed no conditions on the merger. A meeting of H-P shareowners to vote on the merger will be held on March 19.

Publicis Group (PUB ) will acquire Bcom3 for $3B in stock and equity-linked securities.

Panera Bread (PNRA ) posted $0.32 vs. $0.17 Q4 EPS from operations on a 31% revenue rise, raised its 2002 EPS target to $1.32, and set a $1.85 2003 target.

Ann Taylor (ANN ) posted $0.34 vs. $0.18 Q4 EPS from operations on 8.1% higher total net sales, raidsed its $0.48-$0.52 Q1 EPS guidance to $0.52-$0.54, and maintains Q2, Q3 and Q4 fiscal 2003 guidance.

S&P downgraded Conseco (CNC ) to avoid from hold. Merrill reportedly downgrades. On Wednesday afternoon the CFO resigned.

Merrill reportedly upgraded General Motors (GM ) to buy.

Nordstrom (JWN ) posted 4.1% lower February same store sales, and slightly higher total sales, noting that the results are preliminary.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR ) posted 17% higher Feb. same store sales, and 25% higher total sales.

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