Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 6:36pm
Public Domain

Biotech is one of the sectors where M&A activities never stop, as the potential for growth and development is immense. After the termination of a $160 billion merger with Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE: AGN), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) has returned to the M&A table with a bang.

Although some analysts and industry experts believe biotech firms enjoy an elevated premium or valuation, M&A in the space is growing. As a result, small companies have become the target of the big companies.

Most recently, Pfizer acquired Medivation Inc (NASDAQ: MDVN) for $14 billion on August 22. Within the next few days, the company bought AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE: AZN)'s antibiotics portfolio for $1.5 billion. There are also a number of small companies that announced M&A in the current year.

Related Link: BREAKING: Icahn Refutes Ackman's Claim, Buys 2.3 Million More Shares In Herbalife

Below is a look at the big mergers in the current year.

  • Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) announced an agreement to buy Alere Inc. (NYSE: ALR) for $5.8 billion on February 1. However, Alere has since announced that it is suing Abbot over the merger deal. Abbott has refuted the complaints and is "continuing with its efforts to acquire regulatory approvals."
  • Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) announced the acquisition of Nimbus Apollo, Inc., which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nimbus Therapeutics, and its Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase inhibitor program for $1.2 billion on April 4.
  • AbbVie Inc (NYSE: ABBV) announced it would acquire Stemcentrx for $5.8 billion on April 28.
  • Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc - Ordinary Shares (NASDAQ: JAZZ) bought Celator Pharmaceuticals Inc (previously traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker CPXX) for $1.5 billion cash announced May 31.
  • Cinven went into an agreement to acquire BioClinica for $1.4 billion on August 22.
  • Pfizer to buy Medivation for $14 billion, announced on August 22.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 6:03pm
Public Domain

Wingstop Inc (NASDAQ: WING), the restaurant chain that specializes in chicken wings, isn't the kind of company that comes to mind when you think of "chatbots."

Chatbots are becoming a popular way for customers to interact with a company through texts or instant messaging devices. Responses are computer generated and designed to simulate an intelligent conversation and provide accurate and informative answers.

Kevin Fish, Wingstop's vice president of technology wrote an op-ed published in Venture Beat. He pointed out that restaurant and retail channels' digital presence typically consist of a desktop website, a website optimized for mobile use and one or more apps. Normally this is a proven formula that works, but innovative companies need to take there digital game a step further.

Related Link: Fantasy Football Meets The Stock Market

"We have to continually innovate to meet our customers wherever they are and broaden the channels through which they can order our food," Fish wrote.

This is where chatbots come in.

According to Fish, by offering clients the ability to text or message an order, the company "widened the top of our ecommerce funnel for the convenience of our customers."

The process itself is quite simple. A consumer sends the company a message through one of the various platforms to place an order. The bot, named "Wingbot," can help with the order, inquire if the order is for delivery or pickup and confirm how the order will be paid.

"Conversational commerce is a promising channel for driving growth in our digital business, and we're excited to be on the leading edge of it," the executive concluded.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 5:55pm
Public Domain

The Market Vectors Gaming (ETF) (NYSE: BJK) is up nearly 10 percent year-to-date, but that is not preventing some short sellers from targeting some of the gambling exchange-traded fund's holdings, particularly those of the Macau variety.

Global Exposure

Overall, BJK features exposure to 15 countries, with the United States, Australia and China being the only ones commanding double-digit weights. Five of BJK's country weights are emerging markets.

Macau, the only Chinese territory where gambling is legal, is the world's largest gambling hub.

Earlier this month, Benzinga reported gaming revenue in the month of July for Macau came in at 17.7 billion patacas. This figure, according to data released by the Macao Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, is about 4.5 percent lower than July 2015’s number. The 4.5 percent decline actually beat analysts’ low consensus expectations of a 5.5 percent drop.

Related Link: Consider China With This ETF

“Short sellers, who are no strangers to taking a view on gambling stocks, have been busily adding to Macau operator short positions in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s opening of the Wynn Palace which has in turn taken the average shorting activity across the region’s gaming sector back up from recent lows. Current average short interest across the region now stands at 2.6 percent of free float on average, 10% higher than the lows set three months ago,” said Markit in a research note.

It's More Than Black Jack For BJK

U.S. stocks account for 35 percent of BJK's weight. Due to market cap erosion experienced by some Macau names, China is now longer the ETF's second-largest geographic weight. Australia holds that spot at 16.3 percent followed by China at almost 9 percent.

While Las Vegas gambling data is solid and the U.S. is clearly a key driver of BJK's returns, Macau is a pivotal barometer of investor sentiment toward gambling stocks.

As Benzinga noted, some Macau stocks remain well of their highs: Shareholders of the four U.S.-listed Macau names are hoping that the worst of the selloff is now behind them. The stocks of the four Macau names are down between 8 and 56 percent in the past two years.

Wynn Resorts, Limited (NASDAQ: WYNN) has been a favorite for Macau bears for quite some time and the 32 percent jump in shares shorted over the last month means that bearish sentiment in the stock now stands at a six month high. Although the company’s current short interest is still over a third lower than at the heights of last year’s uncertainty, the resurgent short interest indicates that Wynn still has to placate its doubters,” added Markit.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 9:54am
Public Domain

Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) may have a solution for traders and investors suffering from the "dog days" of summer.

Google said in its official blog on Thursday that two of the oldest and most iconic games ever, solitaire and tic-tac-toe, are now available to play in the Google app and on the desktop.

When a user searches for "solitaire" on Google, an option to play the game shows up of the search results. A separate Google search for "tic-tac-toe" also brings up the iconic game.

After spending some time trying to finish a game of solitaire, try asking Google, "what sound does a pig make." Hint: the answer is "oink" (obviously), but the search result also offers a brief sound clip.

Spend some time listening to sounds of some of the lesser known animals, including the humpback whale.

Related Link: Singapore Debuts The World's First Self-Driving Taxi Service

Thanksgiving is approaching, so there's no better way to get in the holiday spirit than listening to the "gobble gobble" sound a turkey makes, courtesy of a Google search, of course.

Feeling a bit lucky? Search for "flip a coin" and see how many times you can accurately guess the results.

"These are just a sample of the delightful surprises that await you on Google," the company concluded in its blog post. "After all, Search is for so much more than research and practical matters — it's for fun, too!"

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Friday, August 26, 2016 - 6:05pm

U.S. stocks were mixed on Friday trading, with the S&P 500 and Dow indexes closing down, and the Nasdaq slightly up, as speculation around the timing of an interest rate hike mounted following comments from key Federal Reserve officials.

Shares of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) gained more than 4.1 percent in after-hours trading, after Carl Icahn revealed an additional stake in the stock.  Benzinga had exclusively reported an announcement was imminent prior to the news.  Seven minutes later, the famed investor disclosed a 2.3 million shares purchase made today, refuting Bill Ackman's earlier claims that he would sell. "I continue to believe in Herbalife," the statement said.

On the other hand, Westar Energy Inc (NYSE: WR) traded slightly down, after the company’s Board of Directors today a quarterly dividend of $0.38 per share, payable October 3 to shareholders of record as of September 9.

Also moving on a Benzinga article was St. Jude Medical, Inc. (NYSE: STJ), which tumbled 0.17 percent since the bell rang, on the back of Muddy Waters comments. The research firm said the company missed out on the opportunity to take responsibility for its flawed devices. "This was a missed opportunity for St. Jude to take responsibility for their flawed devices. St. Jude's response shows that it appears to ignore the nature of the vulnerabilities and the attacks that we described in the report. It's statement offers false assurances that the devices are secure and we intend to publicly refute the company's desperate attempt to brush the issue aside once again. At the end of the day, the longer St. Jude fails to take responsibility for these issues, the greater the risk to their users,” the letter read.

Finally, there’s Amarin Corporation plc (ADR) (NASDAQ: AMRN), which traded down 1.3 percent since the market closed after a subsidiary announced a mandatorily exchange of all of its 3.5 percent May 2014 Exchangeable Senior Notes due 2032 into American Depositary Shares (ADSs) of Amarin. Each ADS represents one ordinary share of Amarin, meaning the company will issue 384.6154 ADSs for each $1,000 principal amount of 2014 Notes.


Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no interest in any of the securities or entities mentioned above.

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 6:05pm

The U.S. stock market closed out another quiet Summer trading week with losses for the Dow and S&P and a small gain for the Nasdaq. All three major averages were higher in early trade, but a mid-day sell-off sent stocks into the red, with only the tech-heavy Nasdaq managing to regain positive territory by the close.

All major sectors were negative on the day with the exception of healthcare and technology, which posted modest gains. The biggest loser on the session was utilities which fell more than 1.60 percent. Market gyrations were seen in stocks, currencies, commodities, and bonds around mid-day as traders responded to a speech made by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. In her comments, she said that the case for a rate hike has increased in recent months.

Stock gainers included Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), which jumped more than 8 percent on a strong earnings report, and Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE: GSAT), which added almost 10 percent after positive analysts comments. Poor performers on the session included Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:BRCD, which lost 12 percent in the wake of a disappointing earnings report, and GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), which lost 11 percent after earnings.

Major Averages

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 53 points, or 0.29 percent, to 18,395.

The S&P 500 fell around 3 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,169.

The Nasdaq climbed 7 points, or 0.13 percent, to end the week at 5,219.

GDP - Second Estimate

The second estimate for Q2 GDP came in at 2.3 percent growth, slightly above the 2.2 percent consensus and the prior quarter's reading which was also positive 2.2 percent.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment - Final

The final University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for August came in at 89.8, which compared to consensus estimates of 90.6 and a previous reading of 90.4.


The commodity complex was slightly lower on Friday with the Bloomberg Commodity Index losing 0.08 percent.

NYMEX crude oil futures fell 0.02 percent to $47.32 while Brent contracts added 0.06 percent to $49.70. Natural gas futures climbed 0.35 percent on the session and finished the week at $2.86.

Precious metals were mixed on Friday. COMEX gold futures were basically unchanged at $1,324.50. The SPDR Gold Trust ETF (NYSE: GLD) lost 0.14 percent to $126.05. Silver futures climbed 0.74 percent to $18.63 on the session. The iShares Silver Trust ETF (NYSE: SLV) traded up 0.51 percent to $17.72.

In the grains complex, corn and wheat were both significantly lower on the day. Corn futures closed out the week with loss of 2.11 percent to $3.2500 per bushel while wheat futures shed 3.83 percent to $4.0750.


Treasury prices were lower on Friday. At the close of equities, the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (NYSE: TLT) had lost 0.58 percent to $138.36.

Treasury yields were as follows on Friday afternoon: The yield on the 2-Year Note was 0.84 percent. The 5-Year Note was yielding 1.23 percent. The 10-Year Note was last yielding 1.63 percent while the 30-Year Bond yield was 2.29 percent.


The U.S. Dollar was strongly higher on Friday. The PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish ETF (NYSE: UUP), which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of foreign currencies, added 0.73 percent to $24.68. The closely watched EUR/USD pair fell 0.78 percent to 1.1197 euros.

Volatility and Volume

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) was slightly higher on the day, but continues to sit near 52-week low levels as market volatility and economic worries remain muted. The VIX added 0.15 percent to close the week at 13.65.

Volume was heavier than normal for the first time in recent memory as the markets reacted to comments made by Fed Chair Janet Yellen on U.S. interest rate policy. Around 115 million shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY) traded hands versus a 3-month daily average of 88.5 million shares. Trading in the PowerShares QQQ Trust (NASDAQ: QQQ), which tracks the Nasdaq 100, was also above average with around 23 million shares trading hands compared to a 3-month daily average of under 22 million.

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 4:46pm

Carl Icahn issued a statement this afternoon about his stake in Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF). Icahn refuted Bill Ackman's earlier claims that he would sell, and announced he'd purchased 2.3 million additional shares of stock.

"I continue to believe in Herbalife," the statement said.

Read the full statement here. Herbalife shares were up 6.55% following the announcement. 

Benzinga Professional broke news of an impending announcement seven minutes ahead of the release. 

The following headlines appeared in the platform. 


HLF, Hot

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 4:40pm

NBA star James Harden turned 27 Friday, but news of his latest shoe isn't exactly the present he was looking for. The internet is bashing James Harden's first signature shoe release with adidas AG (ADR) (OTC: ADDYY). However, this far from the first time social media users slam an NBA stars signature shoe; Steph Curry's "Chef Curry Low" came under Twitter Inc (NASDAQ: TWTR) assault in June. The shoe did still sell quite well, despite the harsh criticism it faced.

James Harden signed a massive $200 million deal with adidas after Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE) announced it would not be matching an offer to sign the Houston Rockets guard. The move was seen as an act of desperation — overpaying for the next available NBA superstar to compete with Nike and Under Armour Inc (NYSE: UA). Since the deal was signed, adidas has made a rapid comeback — but not because of Harden.

Related Link: Yeezy Attempts To Jump Over Jumpan In the NBA

While adidas' James Harden shoe has not been released yet, a photo of the shoe has been leaked, and Twitter users have been having a field day criticizing the style of the shoe.







One thing is certain, the shoe is getting a lot of free publicity, which likely helped Steph Curry's questionable release in terms of sales.

Image Source:

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Friday, August 26, 2016 - 4:24pm
Public Domain

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, a date to commemorate the acquisition of women’s right to vote. And, while it is true society has come a long way from topics like women's suffrage and the chauvinistic practices of the early twentieth century, the floor is far from leveled. Below is a closer look into the gender wage gap, what it means, why it matters and how things are changing in the business world.

Related Link: Google Unveils New Emoji Aimed At Representing Women As Professionals

In a recent paper, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin looked, among other topics, into “gender gaps in earnings over the life-cycle and by occupation.” While her charts are extremely interesting and informative, a version published on Vox might be easier to interpret.

It is a widely known fact that women make about 21 percent less than men for performing equivalent tasks — with African American women and Latinas making even less. However, how this works is not so much a general knowledge issue. What the chart above shows is that, early in a women’s career, the gender wage gap is relatively petite. However, as women embark into their 30s and 40s, the gap becomes much larger.

Related Link: 10 Richest Self-Made Women In America

The doodle that author Sarah Kliff added is a wink at what happens: As soon as women have children and start raising them, their salaries start to part from men’s wages. In fact, recent studies have suggested the wage gap for women with kids (versus men) is twice as large as the gap for childless ladies.

Of course, women in general, politicians, activists and corporate executives are constantly talking about the issue and about the need for a solution. But this is not an easy task. However, the United States' business-professional woman is starting to look for an out.


A Solution On The Horizon


Back in June, the White House announced its Equal Pay Pledge, which included a commitment from numerous companies to help close the gender wage gap. On Friday, the House announced the first signees, which included:

  • Accenture Plc (NYSE: ACN)
  • Airbnb
  • BCG
  • Inc (NYSE: CRCM)
  • CEB
  • Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO)
  • Deloitte
  • Dow Chemical Co (NYSE: DOW)
  • Expedia Inc (NASDAQ: EXPE)
  • EY
  • Glassdoor
  • Godaddy Inc (NYSE: GDDY)
  • (recently purchased by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT))
  • L'Oreal USA
  • Mercer International Inc. (NASDAQ: MERC)
  • PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP)
  • Pinterest
  • Rebecca Minkoff
  •, inc. (NYSE: CRM)
  • Spotify
  • Staples, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS)
  • Stella McCartney
  • Visa Inc (NYSE: V)

Related Link: 5 Most Successful Women In Media & Entertainment

Other Signees, As Reported By The Media

Other companies that have signed in, as reported by various media outlets, include:

  • Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB)
  • Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL)
  • International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT).

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Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no interest in any of the securities or entities mentioned above.

Friday, August 26, 2016 - 3:55pm
Public Domain

Baird Equity Research analysts Jeff Johnson and Jason Bednar maintain Patterson Companies, Inc. (NASDAQ: PDCO) Neutral rating. However, the analysts trimmed their price target on the stock by $2 from $51 to $49.

The comments come on the heels of the company delivering in-line results for the first quarter. In the last three quarters, the company's EPS has come in line or above the estimates.

While pointing out that the company presented a picture of improving trends in dental, the brokerage checks are not pointing out the same kind of improvements throughout the country. That led the analysts to reach a conclusion that the group remained range-bound. The analysts will wait for a clear picture to emerge on the kind of impact the seasonality versus other factors are having on end markets.


Baird thinks companion animal revenue remained strong, with more than 8 percent growth on an adjusted basis. Its dental equipment sales witnessed 5.4 percent organic growth. The company retained its EPS forecast of $2.60–$2.70 for the fiscal year 2017.

Related Link: Todd Marshall Joins Patterson Companies As Chief Marketing And Digital Officer

Baird said, "But peeling the onion back, there were several areas of concern yesterday too: — North American dental demand remains uncertain — while management pointed to modestly improved August demand, June and July trends were both soft and NA dental consumables growth for both HSIC and PDCO in C'2Q fell to levels not seen in more than two years."

At time of writing, Patterson was up 0.36 percent on the day, trading at $46.15 with less than 10 minutes left in Friday's regular trading session.

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