-- Updated from 8 a.m. ET to include information on Hain Celestial, Safeway.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- These stocks were making headlines ahead of Thursday's opening bell:
Hain Celestial (HAIN):
The Melville, N.Y.-based natural and organic foods company forecast earnings of $2.10 to $2.20 a share on sales of between $1.6 billion to $1.615 billion for fiscal 2013 and reported an above-consensus profit for its fiscal fourth quarter ended in June.Hain Celestial, whose shares were up nearly 12% in pre-market action, also announced the acquisition of a number of food brands from U.K. company Premier Foods. The company said it expects the sale to close by the end of October and that it will add to earnings upon closing. Citigroup lifted its price target on Hain's stock to $76 from $68 following the news, saying: "Sales in 4Q were $351mm vs. FC of $366mm though sales excl $28mm in discontinued ops. Consumption increased 10% vs. 9% in Mar ended Q. Encouragingly, mgmt implied momentum continues to be strong in August. We think category strength is being driven by higher end consumer spending, secular growth of organic food, and more at-home eating." Safeway (SWY): Shares of the grocery store operator were downgraded to hold from buy at Jefferies, which cited weakness in industry fundamentals. "With the near-term catalysts seemingly gone, and no additional company-specific or macro drivers on the horizon, valuation remains a lone positive for the equity," the firm said. Safeway shares closed Wednesday at $15.97, down 5% in the past year. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ): Shares of the no. 1 PC maker lost nearly 5% after Wednesday's closing bell after the Dow component missed on the top line with its fiscal third-quarter results and forecast non-GAAP earnings of $4.05 to $4.07 a share for the full year, a view that's at the low end of its prior guidance. The current consensus estimate is for a profit of $4.07 a share in the fiscal year ending in October. "HP is still in the early stages of a multi-year turnaround, and we're making decent progress despite the headwinds," said Meg Whitman, the company's president and CEO, in a statement. "During the quarter we took important steps to focus on strategic priorities, manage costs, drive needed organizational change, and improve the balance sheet. We continue to deliver on what we say we will do." Deutsche Bank lowered its price target to $15 from $20 on HP following the report, while keeping a sell rating on the stock. "Overall, EPS quality this quarter was poor with ~$10B in charges and we remain cautious on HP's weakening fundamentals, challenging macro conditions & deteriorating cash flow," the firm said. The stock was last quoted Wednesday at $18.26, down 4.9%, on after-hours volume of 6.71 million, according to Nasdaq.com. Steel Stocks: Dahlman Rose was out with a bearish call on the steel sector early Thursday, forecasting future pricing weakness for domestic steel producers. "Recent domestic price increases have not been matched internationally, potentially inviting increased imports later this year and placing a de facto ceiling on domestic prices," said the firm, which added later: "Since bottoming in late July, steel stocks in our coverage have rallied in a range of 9% to nearly 30% versus an increase of roughly 6% for the S&P. We believe the move was justified, given the increase in quoted steel prices (currently at $670/st versus early July lows of $590/st), but think that industry fundamentals point to a move lower from current levels." Among the stocks downgraded by Dahlman were AK Steel (AKS), cut to sell from hold with a $5 price target; ArcelorMittal (MT), cut to hold from buy; Nucor (NUE), lowered to hold from buy; Steel Dynamics (STLD), cut to hold from buy; and U.S. Steel (X), dropped to hold from buy. Rambus (RMBS): The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based technology licensing company said after Wednesday's close that it plans to lay off 15% of its workforce as part of a restructuring. The company, which has roughly 450 employees, expects the restructuring to begin in the next few weeks and be completed in the fourth quarter. It anticipates recording related severance charges totaling roughly $6 million over the next two quarters and sees an overall net cash savings of $30 million to $35 million annually from the restructuring program. "After reviewing our expenses in detail, we have concluded that the support infrastructure can be reduced to improve profitability," said Dr. Ronald Black, the company's CEO. "While we have refined some of our R&D investments, we are preserving all of our strategic initiatives as we believe they will drive significant growth in the future." The stock closed Wednesday at $4.76, down more than 55% in the past year.
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