(For more market insights, including options activity, click on ; for the Day Ahead newsletter http://link.reuters.com/mex49s; for the Morning News Call newsletter, http://link.reuters.com/nex49s) U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will sell 41.4 million shares worth about $2.3 billion to pay a tax bill, as part of an offering by the social network of 70 million Class A common shares.
pSivida and Alimera Sciences said they would try a fourth time to get approval for an eye treatment for diabetes patients.
Accenture reported first-quarter results that beat analysts' estimates as increased demand for outsourcing services helped to offset a drop in income from its consulting business.
** VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS INC, Wednesday close $68.63, -4.33 pct premarket
Vertex Pharmaceuticals said on Thursday that ivacaftor, an experimental drug to treat cystic fibrosis, failed to meet its targeted treatment goal in a late-stage study in people aged 6 and older with the "R117H" gene mutation.
Darden Restaurants, under pressure from activist investor Barington Capital Group because of sliding profits, said it would sell or spin off its struggling Red Lobster chain.
** SEMTECH CORP, Wednesday close $28.07, -17.17 pct premarket
Brokerage Sterne Agee & Leach cut its price target on the stock after the semiconductor products company lowered its revenue and profit forecasts for the fourth quarter due to delays in capex spending by telecom carriers. The company supplies analog and mixed-signal semiconductor products to manufacturers of computer, communications, consumer, and industrial electronics.
Oppenheimer & Co downgraded the stock to "perform" from "outperform," according to Theflyonthewall.com.
The interior furnisher said it expects fourth-quarter earnings to rise to 22-25 cents per share from 14-18 cents per share a year earlier. The company also raised its dividend by 1 cent to 10 cents per share, payable Jan. 13 to shareholders on record as of Dec 30.
** ORACLE CORP, Wednesday close $34.6, +2.02 pct premarket
The No. 2 software maker's better-than-expected results and quarterly revenue outlook spurred cautious hope on Wednesday that the software maker is on track to revive growth curtailed this year by slow IT spending.
** EXXON MOBIL CORP, Wednesday close $99.54, -0.10 pct premarket
The world's largest publicly traded oil company's stock neared $100 per share on Wednesday, the continuation of a rally fueled by investor expectations that it would return more cash to shareholders in coming months. "They maintained the quarterly share buyback after two quarters of reductions," said John White, analyst at Houston-based oil and gas investment firm Triple Double Advisors. Shares of Exxon closed up nearly 3 percent at $99.54 on Wednesday, surpassing the previous all-time closing high of $98.87 reached earlier this week.
The oil and gas producer said it would abandon an exploratory well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it did not find commercial hydrocarbons. Cobalt, as operator, owns a 60 percent working interest in the well.
* AK STEEL HOLDING CORP, Wednesday close $6.32, +7.59 pct premarket
The steel maker said on Wednesday it expected to report a profit in the fourth quarter, compared with analysts' estimates of a loss. The company also said it expects fourth-quarter shipments to be 13 percent higher than the previous quarter, reflecting its recovery from an unplanned blast furnace outage.
** GENERAL ELECTRIC CO, Wednesday close $27.41, -0.80 pct premarket
The conglomerate expects profit from aviation, healthcare and other industrial units to rise at least 10 percent next year as it aggressively invests in manufacturing while shrinking its finance arm.
The No. 1 U.S. motor-home maker reported a 51 percent jump in quarterly profit due to higher demand from retail consumers as well as dealers.
Target said data from about 40 million credit and debit card accounts might have been stolen from customers who shopped in its stores over a 19-day period ending Sunday, in one of the largest card breaches at a U.S. retailer.
** BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB CO, Wednesday close $52.59, +0.97 pct premarket
AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN - news) has agreed to buy Bristol-Myers Squibb's stake in the companies' diabetes joint venture for up to $4.1 billion in a deal that will help return the group to growth, sending its shares to a new high.
The enriched uranium supplier, which warned earlier this week that it expected to file for bankruptcy protection, said on Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Energy was prepared to extend funds for its American Centrifuge Project in Ohio for three months beyond Jan. 15.
The payroll and human resources company posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as it earned more from its main check-processing business. The company posted a third-quarter net income of $158.7 million, or 43 cents per share, above analysts' expectations of 42 cents.
** DISH, Wednesday close $55.29
** T-MOBILE, Wednesday close $27.25, +0.81 pct premarket
Dish is considering making a bid for T-Mobile next year, according to people close to the matter, in what would be the satellite TV provider's second attempt in as many years at acquiring a major wireless operator and potentially setting the stage for a new bidding war with Softbank (Xetra: SFT.DE - news) .
A fire department in Southern California said a garage fire may have been caused by an overheated charging system in a Tesla Model S sedan, in the latest link between the top selling electric car and the potential for fire. [IS:nL2N0JX2E2]
** TWO HARBORS INVESTMENT CORP, Wednesday close $9.31, up 2 pct after market
The mortgage real estate investment trust said its unit would buy a pool of mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) from Flagstar Bancorp Inc (NYSE: FBC - news) for about $500 million. (Compiled by Neha Dimri in Bangalore; Edited by Don Sebastian)