NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - Some U.S. stocks to watch on Friday:
Richard Parsons, the chairman of Citigroup, told Reuters late Thursday the bank didn’t need any more capital injections from the government. He also expressed confidence that the bank would remain in private hands, and brushed aside any prospect of the U.S. government nationalizing the bank.
Recently, the U.S. government said it would boost its equity stake in Citigroup as much as 36 percent through the conversion of up to $25 billion in preferred shares of common stock. Parsons said that after these actions, “Citi is actually one of the better capitalized banks in the world.”
For details, see [ID:nN12399663]
Shares of Citigroup surged 7.8 percent to $1.80 in premarket trade.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY (BRKa.N)
Fitch cut its rating on Warren Buffett’s insurance and investment company, dropping it one notch to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA.’ The agency cited concerns about Berkshire’s equity and derivatives investments, as well as Buffett’s tight grip on the company.
“Fitch views the company’s potential earnings and capital volatility derived from its large, unhedged market exposures as inconsistent with the stability required at the ‘AAA’ level,” the rating agency said in a statement. [ID:nSP445216]
Shares of Berkshire closed Thursday at $85,700.
WAL-MART STORES (WMT.N)
Goldman Sachs on Friday removed Wal-Mart from its conviction buy list, saying it seemed less likely that the discount retailer would raise its first-quarter outlook, following the release of its March retail sales.
The firm kept its buy rating on the stock, a Dow component.
Shares of Wal-Mart slid 0.5 percent to $48.71 in premarket trade.
MERCK & CO (MRK.N)
Bernstein on Friday upgraded Merck to outperform from market perform, saying the pharmaceutical company’s valuation was “too low for a best-in-class grower.”
The firm added that it was in favor of the company’s recently-announced decision to buy Schering-Plough SGP.N, “a company with one of the best longer-term outlooks,” it said.
“Merck seems to be paying a very fair price for what Schering-Plough has to offer, in our view,” Bernstein added, raising its price target on the company to $30 from $27.
AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING (AXL.N)
The auto supplier’s auditors have said the company may go out of business, giving it a “going concern” notice because of pressure on its main customers, General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler.
“As a result of the current automotive industry environment and the uncertainty relating to the ability of GM and Chrysler to continue operating as going concerns... it is uncertain whether we will be in compliance with the financial covenants... throughout 2009,” the company wrote in a filing. [ID:nN13423662]
Shares of the company closed Thursday at 75 cents.
PFIZER INC (PFE.N)
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Thursday said it had lined up 29 additional lenders to provide all $22.5 billion in loans for its planned $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth. Pfizer had previously secured five lenders.
“We’ve achieved a significant milestone,” a Pfizer spokeswoman said, adding that the larger slate of lenders gave more security that the deal would be completed, as none were loaning Pfizer more than $1.5 billion. [ID:nLD617034]
Shares of Pfizer slid 0.5 percent to $13.95 in premarket trade while Wyeth shares closed Thursday at $42.78.
SARA LEE CORP SLE.N
The food company is considering a sale of its European household and personal-care business, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter.
While it is unclear if any deal will occur, the company has hired Goldman Sachs to sound out possible bidders for the unit, which could fetch more than $2 billion, the paper said.
Colgate-Palmolive (CL.N) was mentioned as a possible bidder by the Journal. [ID:nBNG131621]
Shares of Sara Lee closed Thursday at $7.27 while Colgate shares closed at $56.51.
SMITH & WESSON HOLDINGS CORP SWHC.O
The U.S. firearms maker reported a higher-than-expected third-quarter profit, helped by a double-digit growth in the sales of handguns and tactical rifles. Shares of the company rose 10 percent after the bell. They closed at $4.59 Thursday on Nasdaq.
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica)