Among the numerous small-cap losers Thursday was soft-drink maker Cott ( COT), which plunged 19% to $8.20 on slashed full-year guidance. The Canada-based company now expects its 2007 operating income to be "substantially lower" than 2006's $2.3 million vs. its prior prediction for growth of between 12% and 15%. Sales should be about flat with last year's $1.78 billion; analysts polled by Thomson Financial are seeking $1.8 billion. Staffing-services firm Spherion ( SFN) dropped 14.3% on word it will buy Todays Staffing from CDI ( CDI) for $40 million in cash. The deal will probably close by the end of the third quarter. Spherion expects earnings accretion in 2008, but shares of the Florida concern still gave up $1.36 to $8.13. CDI shares slipped 3.1%. These declines, along with a downgrade at J2 Global Communciations ( JCOM), helped to drag down both the Russell 2000 and the S&P SmallCap 600. The trackers were respectively off by 1.3% and 1%. J2, a Los Angeles-based purveyor of messaging and communications services, shed 5.5% to $34.12 after Friedman Billings cut the stock to market perform from outperform, saying that the effect of expected in-line third-quarter results is already baked into the share price. On the upside, however, shares of athenahealth ( ATHN) nearly doubled after its initial public offering, which priced 6.3 million shares at $18 apiece. Shares of the Watertown, Mass., outfit -- a purveyor of Web-based management software and services for the health-care sector -- were trading at $35.05.
VeriChip ( CHIP), a Delray Beach, Fla., maker of radio-frequency ID systems for the health-care industry, said it will buy back up to $1.5 million of its shares over the coming four months. Its stock shot up 50 cents, or 14%, to $3.99. Elsewhere, Mechanical Technology ( MKTY), whose subsidiary MTI MicroFuel Cells makes a micro-fuel-cell technology for handheld devices called Mobion, climbed on word the Department of Transportation proposed to allow airplane passengers to bring such substances onto planes. Shares added 13.5% to $1.32.