US HOT STOCKS: Yahoo, Priceline, Netflix, Merge Healthcare, SciClone, Sempra Energy

Among the companies whose shares are actively trading in the session are Atlas Energy Inc. (ATLS), Priceline.com Inc. (PCLN) and Dean Foods Co. (DF). Chevron Corp. (CVX, $83.72, -$1.08, -1.27%) has agreed to acquire independent natural-gas producer Atlas Energy ($42.76, +$11.04, +34.80%) for $3.2 billion, joining its larger rival Exxon Mobil Inc. (XOM, $70.72, +$0.84, +1.20%) in making a bet on natural gas.

Chevron will pay Atlas shareholders $38.25 in cash for each share and a total of 41 million units of the company’s limited partner, Atlas Pipeline Holdings LP (AHD, $12.31, +$2.62, +27.04%), or $5.09 per Atlas Energy share.

Priceline’s ($420.75, +$32.17, +8.28%) third-quarter profit dropped 30% absent a big prior-year tax-related gain, but core results handily topped the company’s expectations. Shares climbed as the company also projected fourth-quarter earnings and revenue growth ahead of Wall Street’s estimates. Dean Foods’ ($8.81, -$1.55, -14.98%) third-quarter earnings dropped 51%, falling short of analysts’ estimates, as the company continued to see its dairy operations–its biggest unit–struggle. Shares tumbled as the company also forecast fourth-quarter earnings below consensus expectations. Chevron’s agreement to buy independent natural-gas producer Atlas Energy is also giving a boost to the natural gas sector: Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG, $35.18, +$2.64, +8.11%), Range Resources Corp. (RRC, $44.20, +$3.47, +8.52%) and Petrohawk Energy Corp. (HK, $18.75, +$0.99, +5.57%) are all seeing their shares rise.

Netflix Inc. (NFLX, $173.88, +$4.75, +2.81%) appeared to have switched online content delivery providers again, less than a year after going with Akamai Technologies Inc. (AKAM, $51.65, -$2.49, -4.60%), according to blog reports. BusinessofVideo.com notes that Netflix’s former providers, Limelight Networks Inc. (LLNW, $8.25, +$1.65, +25.00%) and Level 3 Communications Inc. (LVLT, $1.00, +$0.11, +12.50%), gave such indications on their recent earnings conference calls. Limelight said its Netflix contract was extended through 2013 and will expand in 2011. Level 3, meanwhile, referenced “a large content customer [content delivery network] contract we just won in October.”

Other Stocks In Focus: Barclays PLC (BCS, $18.98, +$0.43, +2.32%) reported a sharp fall in pretax profit for the third quarter as income, including at its investment-banking business, fell. The U.K. bank also moved to ease concerns that it will have to raise capital ahead of new regulatory requirements.

Cinemark Holdings Inc. (CNK, $18.19, -$0.38, -2.05%) said the sale of its stock to be sold by private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC priced at a 3.3% discount to Monday’s closing price. The planned sale of at least 10 million shares by Madison Dearborn was announced late Monday.

Convergys Corp. (CVG, $12.15, +$0.32, +2.70%) swung to a third-quarter profit, with adjusted results declining but topping analysts’ estimates, as the company rebounded from prior-year losses from discontinued operations.

Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (ENER, $4.93, +$0.38, +8.35%), a provider of thin-film flexible solar laminate products, reported a narrower-than-expected loss and revenue ahead of estimates.

FalconStor Software Inc. (FALC, $2.74, +$0.35, +14.64%) announced that it has entered into a managed services and reseller agreement with HP Enterprise Services. Under the terms of the agreement, FalconStor’s network storage server software will be used to create new disaster recovery and business continuity offerings for HP Business Continuity Recovery Services customers.

Fossil Inc.’s (FOSL, $68.73, +$4.76, +7.44%) third-quarter profit surged 93% as the watch and fashion-accessories retailer’s sales jumped sharply and margins improved, with results handily topping expectations.

Golden Star Resources Ltd. (GSS, $5.64, -$0.32, -5.37%) posted a surprise third-quarter loss, but was less in the red than last year, as the gold miner’s gross margin rose on surging gold prices.

Hologic Inc. (HOLX, $16.96, +$0.68, +4.18%) swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter loss on write-downs, although revenue rose more than the maker of medical diagnostic and monitoring gear expected. For the new fiscal year, the company forecast earnings below expectations, while its revenue view bracketed analysts’ average estimate.

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC’s (IHG, $18.52, -$1.07, -5.46%) third-quarter results came in slightly beneath expectations. Bank of America Merrill Lynch reiterated its underperform recommendation on the U.K.-based hotel operator, saying “the outlook statement is slightly more positive than three months ago but does strike a note of caution and says that despite the improvement in revenue per available room, the company has limited visibility.”

JA Solar Holdings Co.’s (JASO, $9.60, +$0.19, +2.02%) third-quarter earnings surged as the Chinese solar-products maker reported strongly higher revenue and shipments.

Qiagen NV’s (QGEN, $18.40, -$0.44, -2.34%) third-quarter profit slid 3.2% on lower margins amid the weak U.S. economy, but sales in its molecular diagnostics segment remained strong. Total revenue fell short of expectations and the Dutch medical diagnostic-products maker cut its 2010 sales forecast while backing its earnings view.

LDK Solar Co.’s (LDK, $14.58, +$1.09, +8.08%) third-quarter profit more than tripled as the Chinese maker of solar wafers and modules posted surging shipments and revenue, helping it easily top estimates. The company also projected strong fourth-quarter revenue and again raised its full-year revenue target.

Merge Healthcare Inc. (MRGE, $3.76, +$0.63, +20.13%) reported results that exceeded analyst estimates. The health IT and interoperability solutions provider also named Jeffery Surges as its new chief executive. He was most recently the president of sales at Allscripts Healthcare Solutions.

Mindray Medical International Ltd.’s (MR, $28.50, -$1.33, -4.46%) third-quarter profit declined 17% on prior-year gains as international sales continued to climb. But the Chinese medical-device maker’s revenue fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

Multiband Corp. (MBND, $2.82, +$0.08, +2.92%) said its third-quarter results would exceed previous projections as the cable-service company has seen stronger revenue. The home service provider for DIRECTV said revenue results have been driven by increased leverage in its business model.

Sara Lee Corp.’s (SLE, $15.02, +$0.22, +1.49%) shares rose after the namesake cheesecake and other packaged food maker announced plans to sell its North American fresh bakery business to Mexican bakery giant Grupo Bimbo (BIMBO.MX) for $959 million, ridding itself of a business that has been hurt by hefty promotions in grocery stores.

Santarus Inc. (SNTS, $3.06, -$0.24, -7.27%) swung to a loss in the third quarter, as the biopharmaceutical company’s sales plunged because generic versions of its stomach drug Zegerid hit the market. Shares sank as the company also ratcheted back its expectations for the year.

SciClone Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s (SCLN, $3.81, +$0.16, +4.38%) third-quarter earnings more than tripled, beating analysts’ estimates, as the company’s revenue increased and margins improved. The drug maker raised its 2010 profit forecast.

Sempra Energy’s (SRE, $51.75, -$1.89, -3.52%) third-quarter profit plunged 58% as the company took a write-down involving its commodities-focused joint venture, but revenue rose much more than analysts expected. The southern California utility operator and wholesale generator had seen weakness in its core results earlier this year.

Power producers struggled in Solarfun Power Holdings Co. (SOLF, $10.61, -$0.86, -7.50%) swung to a third-quarter loss on derivative and convertible-bond impacts, masking surging demand as the Chinese solar-products maker’s shipments set a record. The company boosted its 2010 shipment target to about 785 megawatts from 750 MW as third-quarter shipments doubled.

ISI Group has upgraded its stock investment rating on Symantec Corp. (SYMC, $17.77, +$0.21, +1.20%) to buy from hold, saying shares have struggled since its acquisition of Veritas Software Corp. in 2004 but the time is right to purchase for investors with a 12-18 month horizon.

Warnaco Group Inc.’s (WRC, $56.15, +$1.01, +1.83%) third-quarter earnings jumped 40% on continued success expanding abroad, as the apparel maker’s results beat expectations. The company also increased its outlook for the year.

Western Gas Partners LP (WES, $29.84, -$1.22, -3.93%) plans to sell at least 6.5 million units in the second such sale this year. Units fell as the sale would increase outstanding units by about 9%. The founder of China’s largest e-commerce company,

Alibaba Group, has been approached by private equity investors to measure his interest in participating in a joint bid for Yahoo Inc. (YHOO, $17.50, +$1.06, +6.42%), which owns a 40% stake in Alibaba, Reuters reported Tuesday on its website, citing a person close to the situation

Source: Dow Jones Newswires;