Updated from 11:53 a.m. EDTShares of Star Gas Partners ( SGU) were among the NYSE's winners Friday, rising 5.7% after the company obtained a bank waiver and financing commitment for its beleaguered heating oil business. As a result of the agreements, the company's heating oil unit will be able to borrow funds for working-capital purposes for the near term. The amendment also provides for a waiver, through Dec. 17, of various terms under the credit agreement with Wachovia Bank and others. Last month, the company's shares plummeted 80% after its heating oil unit warned that earnings results would decline substantially, a development that would not permit it to meet the borrowing conditions under its working capital line. Star immediately engaged its lenders to modify conditions and other terms that would enable its business unit to operate through the winter. At the time, Star Gas warned that if lenders did not agree to offer modified terms, it could be forced to seek alternative financing on "extremely disadvantageous" terms or even be forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Shares traded up 37 cents to $6.88. Meadowbrook Insurance Group ( MIG) rose 8.6% after the company posted third-quarter results above expectations. Meadowbrook earned 18 cents a share during the third quarter on sales of $69.5 million. Accelerated sales recognition from the termination of a multistate claims runoff contract contributed 7 cents to earnings. Analysts were expecting earnings of 10 cents a share on sales of $68.5 million. The company said that it originally expected revenue from the multistate runoff contract to be recognized during the fourth quarter of 2004 and first quarter of 2005. Shares traded up 40 cents to $5.07. Shares of Avery Dennison ( AVY) fell 11.3% after the maker of office products and labels disclosed that it may be fined by the European Commission as a result of employee misconduct in its European operations. "This conduct violated the company's policies and in some cases constituted an infringement of EC competition law. As a result, the company expects that the EC will fine the company when its investigation is completed," the company said. Avery said the EC has a lot of latitude in determining the amount of the fine -- up to 10% of the company's annual sales -- so it is unable to predict the timing or the amount of any fine. However, the company believes the fine could be "material in amount." Shares traded down $6.99 to $54.90.
Nicor ( GAS) fell 2.9% after the company posted a third-quarter loss and cut its full-year earnings outlook. The energy company posted a loss of 26 cents a share on sales of $299.9 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting a profit of 6 cents a share on sales of $300 million. Nicor said that third-quarter earnings were impacted by lower operating results in its gas distribution and wholesale natural gas marketing businesses. Looking ahead, Nicor said its full-year earnings results could be up to 5 cents below the low end of its previously issued guidance of $2.10 to $2.30 a share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $2.20 a share. Shares traded down $1.15 to $38.50. Shares of Univision ( UVN) fell 12.2% after the Spanish-language broadcaster posted strong third-quarter earnings results but warned that fourth-quarter earnings would fall below expectations. During the third quarter, the company earned 21 cents a share, beating expectations by a penny. Sales, meanwhile, came in at $477.4 million, topping estimates handily. Looking ahead, Univision forecast fourth-quarter earnings of 18 cents to 20 cents a share, below the 23 cents that analysts had been expecting. Shares traded down $4.01 to $28.79. NYSE volume leaders included Merck ( MRK), down 81 cents to $26.21; Pfizer ( PFE), down 27 cents to $28.79; Lucent ( LU), unchanged at $3.58; Sears Roebuck ( S), up $8.70 to $45.88; and Gap ( GPS), up 23 cents to $22.37. Nasdaq volume leaders included Microsoft ( MSFT), up 31 cents to $29.31; Intel ( INTC), up 48 cents to $23.36; Cisco ( CSCO), up 45 cents to $19.97; Sun Microsystems ( SUNW), up 17 cents to $4.79; Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI), up 1 cent to $3.93; and Oracle ( ORCL), up 7 cents to $13.17.