Hewlett-Packard Profit Beats Forecast

Nordstrom boosts profit outlook, Applied Materials issues upbeat guidance, and more of Wednesday's stocks in the news

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) posts third-quarter earnings per share (non-GAAP basis) of 36 cents, above analysts' forecast and up from 24 cents a year ago, on a 10% revenue rise. The computer company sees 44-47 cents fourth-quarter EPS on revenue of $22.4 billion to $22.8 billion. S&P raises estimates and keeps hold recommendation. First Albany, Prudential, and Banc of America upgrade the stock.

Applied Materials (AMAT ) posts 23 cents, vs. 26 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on a 27% sales decline. The chip equipment maker notes new orders declined 40% year-over-year and 5% quarter-over-quarter. S&P maintains buy. Needham says the company's fourth-quarter EPS guidance of 13-14 cents and new orders guidance is positive.

Nordstrom (JWN ) posts 53 cents, vs. 37 cents, second-quarter earnings per share on 6.2% higher same-store sales and a 7.8% rise in revenue. The upscale retailer increased its fiscal year 2006 EPS estimate to $1.80-$1.90 from $1.70-$1.75; and sees third-quarter EPS of 30-35 cents. S&P reiterates buy.

Sprint Nextel (S ) is preparing to acquire Nextel Partners (NXTP ) in the next few weeks, according to people familiar with situation. Though talks are still under way, people familiar with company say a deal could fetch about $30 a share, according to Thestreet.com.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF ) posts lower-than-expected 63 cents, vs. 44 cents, second-quarter earnings per share on 30% higher same-store sales and 42% higher sales. The apparel retailer ups fiscal year 2006 EPS guidance to $3.10-$3.30. It sets a 6 million share buyback. S&P reiterates buy on possible weakness.

Borders Group (BGP ) posts 2 cents, vs. 10 cents, second-quarter earnings per share as higher costs offset 1.8% higher same-store sales and 5.3% higher total sales. The book chain says international segment is challenging. It sees 8-12 cents third-quarter loss per share and $1.60-$1.70 fiscal year 2006 EPS.

Photronics (PLAB ) posts 35 cents, vs. 23 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on an 11% rise in revenue. It cites overall demand for photomask technology and services remain robust. It notes that revenue was at the lower end of company expectations resulting from a short-term operating issue.

Blue Coat Systems (BCSI ) posts first-quarter earnings per share (GAAP basis) of 24 cents, vs. 13 cents, on a 58% revenue rise. The company sees second-quarter EPS of 23-28 cents on 9%-12% sequential revenue rise. Raymond James upgrades to strong buy from outperform.

Charming Shoppes (CHRS ) posts 30 cents, vs. 21 cents, second-quarter earnings per share on 3% same-store sales rise and 13% total sales rise. The retailer notes solid improvements in operating margin. It sees 7-8 cents third-quarter EPS. It raises 69-73 cents fiscal year 2006 EPS guidance to 73-75 cents.

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