Updated from 11:12 a.m. ESTShares of Party City ( PCTY) were among the Nasdaq's winners Thursday, rising 10.5% after the company said it is exploring strategic alternatives and announced the resignation of its chief executive. The retailer of party goods and supplies said that it has received inquiries from more than one entity interested in merging with it. Party City said that it has not accepted any proposal or agreed to any other action and cautioned that there can be no assurance that a deal would be consummated. The company also announced that Nancy Pedot stepped down as CEO. Pedot, the company said, would serve as a consultant on an "as needed basis" going forward. "The board's recent initiatives are likely to take the company in a different strategic direction, which is their prerogative," Pedot said in a statement. "For me personally, I believe this is an appropriate time to pursue other opportunities." A newly formed executive committee will assume Pedot's CEO responsibilities. Shares traded up $1.39 to $14.63. Hartmarx ( HMX) rose 7.6% after the maker of business, casual and golf apparel posted first-quarter earnings and sales that were better than expected. The company earned $4.2 million, or 11 cents a share, up from $2.2 million, or 6 cents a share, a year ago. Sales came in at $143.8 million, up from $136.6 million during last year's first quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 8 cents a share on sales of $134.4 million. Earnings were helped by higher sales and improved margins in the company's men's and women's segments. Looking ahead, Hartmarx said that it remains comfortable with a 2005 earnings increase of 30% to 40% on sales growth that will be in the low to midsingle-digit range. Shares traded up 67 cents to $9.54.
Shares of China Finance Online ( JRJC) rose 17.7% after the China-based provider of online financial data announced a $10 million stock repurchase plan. China Finance will buy the stock in the open market over a period of six months, it said, and the purchases will be funded by available working capital. China Finance said its shares are undervalued and the buyback represents a sound investment for the company. Shares traded up $1.08 to $7.16. MIND CTI ( MNDO) fell 17.1% after the company warned that first-quarter results would fall well short of expectations. When the company reports earnings on April 20, it expects to post earnings of 3 cents a share on sales of $3 million. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 7 cents a share on sales of $4.56 million. The company, which provides real-time billing and customer care for pre- and postpaid voice, data and video service providers, said the timing of its revenue recognition was delayed with respect to several customers. Two large upgrades that were expected to close during the first quarter were delayed as well. Shares traded down 80 cents to $3.89. Shares of Timken ( TKR) rose 13.9% after the company lifted its first-quarter earnings guidance. Timken now expects earnings of 57 cents to 62 cents a share, up from previous guidance of 38 cents to 43 cents a share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 41 cents a share on sales of $1.21 billion. For all of 2005, Timken now expects earnings of $2.05 to $2.20 a share, up from an earlier forecast of $1.70 to $1.85 a share. Analysts had been expecting earnings of $1.79 a share. The company said that it continues to benefit from strength in the global industrial market. Indeed, the recent slowdown in North American light vehicle production, the company said, has been more than offset by strong industrial markets. In particular, Timken is seeing better-than-expected sales volume in its steel group, especially in the general industrial, oil and aerospace end markets. Timken will release first-quarter earnings on April 19. Shares traded up $3.34 to $27.34.
NYSE volume leaders included Elan ( ELN), down $3.74 to $3.24; Qwest ( Q), down 7 cents to $3.70; American International Group ( AIG), down $1.75 to $55.41; Lucent Technologies ( LU), down 4 cents to $2.75; Pfizer ( PFE), down 2 cents to $26.27; Exxon Mobil ( XOM), up 36 cents to $59.60; and J.C. Penney ( JCP), up $4.02 to $51.92. Nasdaq volume leaders included Microsoft ( MSFT), up 1 cent to $24.17; Cisco Systems ( CSCO), down 14 cents to $17.89; MCI ( MCIP), up 45 cents to $24.90; Intel ( INTC), down 26 cents to $23.23; and Biogen Idec ( BIIB), down $3.84 to $34.51.