Updated from 2:54 p.m. EDT with new stock pricesBad vibes at Merrill Lynch ( MER) and a
Ambac Financial ( ABK) posted in-line operating earnings, but shares slouched 8.77% to $51.00 after the financial insurer swung to a net loss of $360.6 million, or $3.51 a share, vs. a year-ago profit. XL Capital ( XL), another insurer, posted better-than-anticipated third-quarter earnings but lost 1.49% on word that CEO Brian O'Hara and Chairman Michael Esposito will retire in 2008. Arthur J. Gallagher ( AJG), an insurance broker, gave up 3.92% following lower-than-expected earnings in that quarter. Asset manager Legg Mason's ( LM) growing fiscal second-quarter profits
missed Wall Street's forecast , and credit-rating firm Moody's ( MCO) posted income of 51 cents a share that receded from last year and came in 4 cents shy of the mean. Shares lost 3.51% and 3.06%, respectively. Suffering one of the sector's biggest price drops, meanwhile, was Los Angeles bank Hanmi Financial ( HAFC), which warned that third-quarter earnings will decline at least 20% sequentially. That would mean 25 cents a share or lower against the 33-cent consensus. Shares slumped 23.38%. In negative analyst research, Bank of America downgraded Wachovia ( WB) to neutral from buy on the heels of Friday's dismal third-quarter financials , pulling shares down 1.24% to $45.40. Prosperity Bancshares ( PRSP) shed 1.46% following a Stifel Nicolaus cut to hold from buy, and Goldman Sachs slashed Morgan Stanley's ( MS) 2007 estimates by 75 cents a share to $7.60. Its stock surrendered 1.15% to $62.89.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange ( CME), however, was among several exchanges that traded in the green Wednesday after its pro-forma non-GAAP income shot up 68.4% from last year, to $4.31 a share, in the third quarter. That's well above the $4.10 average analyst estimate. Shares climbed $15.40, or 2.43%, to $650.00. IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE) added 4.12% ahead of tomorrow's scheduled earnings release, and Nasdaq Stock Market ( NDAQ) traded mostly in positive territory after third-quarter income vaulted to $365 million, or $2.41 a share, boosted by a huge gain from the sale of its London Stock Exchange holdings. A year earlier, Nasdaq made 22 cents a share. Excluding the LSE sale and other extraordinary items, income came to 42 cents a share, or 3 cents over Street expectations. Nasdaq shares were recently up 42 cents to $42.50. In other upward moves, insurer Aflac ( AFL) rose 4.43% to $61.72 after topping the third-quarter earnings consensus by 3 cents a share, and brokerage Raymond James Financial ( RJF) gained 6.13% to $34.80 after coming in 2 cents ahead in its fiscal fourth quarter.