Health indices remained essentially flat Thursday, even as regulatory approvals and earnings results bumped a few stocks into the green. Making "Winners & Losers" on back-to-back days, Human Genome Sciences ( HGSI) corrected some of the hit it took Wednesday after announcing that it will lower the higher, less-frequent dose of its hepatitis C drug Albuferon in late-stage studies because of pulmonary side effects. Shares tumbled more than 40% on Wednesday on speculation that a safety flag for the 1200 mcg once-monthly dose may cast a shadow on the Food and Drug Administration's reception of the twice-monthly 900 mcg dose as well. On Thursday, Robert W. Baird upgraded the stock to outperform from neutral and Bear Stearns upgraded the stock to outperform from peer perform, noting that although development risk for the drug has increased, the current view and stock price are too pessimistic. Shares recently rebounded 51 cents or 9%, to $6.14. The stock is a component of the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was down 0.7%, at 800.04. Also on the rise, Italian company Gentium ( GENT) said Thursday that a data safety monitoring board (DSMB) conducted a safety analysis of Defibrotide for severe veno-occlusive disease and found no safety concerns. The company said the DSMB did ask it to clarify and supplement certain trial data to complete the remainder of the interim analysis. Gentium plans to release further results of the review when that is complete. Shares were up 98 cents, or 10.7%, at $10.13. On the regulatory side, MiddleBrook Pharmaceuticals ( MBRK) received approval from the FDA on Thursday for its anti-infective Moxatag to treat pharyngitis and tonsillitis secondary to strep throat. The drug is the first once-daily amoxicillin therapy approved in the U.S. The company agreed to submit a completed study report and data set for the drug in pediatric patients less than 12 years old within the next five years as part of a postmarketing commitment in accordance with the Pediatric Research Equity Act. Shares rose $1.75, or a whopping 140%, to $3. In earnings, Gilead Sciences ( GILD) reported revenue at $1.09 billion, a 22% year-over-year hike. The company said Wednesday postclose that it earned $401.6 million, or 41 cents a share, compared to a loss of $1.66 billion, or $1.81 a share, a year ago due to charges associated with the acquisition of Myogen. On an adjusted basis, Gilead reported earning $401.6 million, or 44 cents a share, an increase of 7% over the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had been expecting adjusted earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $1.08 billion. Shares were up 93 cents, or 2%, to $45.71 on Thursday. Also, Becton Dickinson ( BDX) rose $2.56, or 3%, to $87.17 after beating estimates Thursday. The company earned $271.5 million, or $1.07 a share, on revenue of $1.7 billion for its first quarter of 2008, vs. $142.8 million, or 56 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for $1.03 a share on revenue of $1.65 billion. Looking ahead, the company expects earnings per share from continuing operations to increase to a range of $4.26 to $4.34 for full-year 2008 -- an 11% to 13% increase compared to 2007 adjusted earnings.
Stocks soar as the gross domestic product rises at an annualized rate of 3.5% in the third quarter and continuing jobless claims fall. Gregg Greenberg recaps the action in The Real Story video (above).