Market Focus

Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants warn that severe weather took a bite out of quarterly sales. The parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden estimates a third-quarter profit that fell far short of expectations. The company also said its plan to spin-off Red Lobster is still on track, rebuffing two activist investment firms that urged Darden to take other actions to help results. Shares plunged more than five percent to $48.33.

Pfizer

Pfizer is hoping to sell an over-the-counter version of its blockbuster cholesterol pill Lipitor. The drug maker started testing to see if its safe for patients to take Lipitor without doctor guidance. If approved by the FDA, this would be the first statin available without a prescription. Shares were off slightly yo $31.98.

Dendreon

Shares of Dendreon surged on news the drug maker will launch its prostate cancer vaccine in Europe. The drug will first be available in the United Kingdom and Germany, but an exact release date hasn’t been announced. That helped investors shrug off weaker than expected fourth quarter results. The stock surged almost 15 percent to $3.31.

Citigroup

Investors sold shares of Citi today on news of an investigation by a federal grand jury over the bank’s compliance with money-laundering and bank secrecy laws. Citi received subpoenas just a few days after it announced its Mexican banking unit had been defrauded of as much at $400 million. Shares fell two percent to $47.61.

Microsoft

Microsoft shares fell on some news of changes in top management. The new CEO, Satya Nadella, has tapped Mark Penn to head up Microsoft’s strategy. He’s a former Clinton family aid and a Microsoft Executive Vice President overseeing advertising and strategy. Two other Executive Vice Presidents will leave the software company. Shares were down more than one percent to $37.78.

Men’s Wearhouse & Jos. A. Bank

Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank are one step closer to a possible merger. The two retailers agreed to exchange confidential information to work towards evaluating a combination. Men’s Wearhouse also said it received a draft merger agreement from Jos. A. Bank. Shares of both companies rose slightly. Men’s Wearhouse closed at $54.10. Jos. A. Bank closed at $62.30.

Fedex

FedEx’s freight business will increase shipping rates by almost four percent by the end of March. Just last month FedEx increased it domestic express shipping rates.  The hikes come as the company faces a shift towards cheaper shipping services. Shares rose a fraction to $133.38.

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