Stocks to watch Monday: Yahoo, Amgen, Noble Energy

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Among the stocks that could see active trade in Monday’s session are Yahoo Inc., Amgen Inc. and Noble Energy Inc.

It’s another light day on the earnings front. Apollo Group Inc.
Cal-Maine Foods Inc.
Landec Corp.
Saratoga Resources Inc.
Pacific Drilling SA
CTI Industries Corp.
 and Reed’s Inc.
 are on deck to hand in their quarterly results.

A proxy fight is again taking shape at Yahoo
as investors Third Point reacted with dismay Sunday to the company’s appointment of three independent directors to its board. New York-based Third Point, which says it’s Yahoo’s largest outside shareholder, vowed to pursue a proxy contest at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company’s annual meeting. “Third Point offered several significant compromises to strike a deal and avoid a proxy contest. Today, the board has shown yet again that they are unable to execute deals that are in the company’s best interests,” Third Point said, panning the selection of John Hayes, Peter Liguori and Thomas McInerney for seats on Yahoo’s board. ““Yahoo is moving aggressively to increase shareholder value,” said Chairman Roy Bostock in a statement. “We have appointed a capable and dynamic CEO who is driving the business toward its next era of success. And we have reconstituted the board of directors with the right mix of experience and expertise to help Yahoo build upon its very strong assets and brand base to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.” Hayes is executive vice president and chief marketing officer of American Express Co.
while McInerney’s the outgoing chief financial officer of IAC/InterActiveCorp
Liguori formerly served as chief operating officer of Discovery Communications Inc. and as chairman and president of entertainment of Fox Broadcasting Network, a unit of News Corp.
corporate parent of MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.

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 said Sunday a Phase Ib clinical study of human monoclonal antibody AMG 145 yielded “positive results,” as the biotech company awaits further studies about its potential use in fighting high cholesterol. In patients with high cholesterol who were taking statins, the Phase Ib study showed that multiple doses of AMG 145 “significantly reduced” so-called ”bad” cholesterol by up to 81% measured versus those taking a placebo, the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company said. AMG 145 works to inhibit a protein that reduces the liver’s ability to remove bad cholesterol from the blood. No deaths or serious adverse events were reported in the study, full results of which were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s scientific session in Chicago. ”Based on these results, Amgen initiated a robust Phase II program that will provide a deeper understanding of the benefit-risk profile,” said Dr. Sean Harper, Amgen’s executive vice president in charge of research and development, in a statement. The results of these studies are due later in 2012, Harper said.

Noble Energy Inc.
 anticipates that first-quarter production volumes will come in at “the upper end” of the company’s prior forecast, the Houston-based company said Sunday. One factor behind the updated forecast is production from Noble Energy’s properties in the DJ Basin area of northeastern Colorado, where current daily output of 74,000 barrels of oil equivalent is up 12% over the average for the fourth quarter of 2011. Charles Davidson, chairman and CEO of Noble Energy, will discuss the update during a presentation he’s scheduled to make Monday at a New Orleans conference put on by Howard Weil Inc.

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Making good on plans for a special dividend, the board of Armstrong World Industries Inc.
 declared a cash payout in the amount of $8.55 a share. The dividend will be paid April 10 to stockholders of record as of April 3; the ex-dividend date will be March 30. Armstrong World said late Friday it will fund payment of the special dividend via $250 million of debt that the company issued under an expansion of its senior credit facility, to $1.3 billion, and by using surplus cash on its balance sheet. Both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service have affirmed respective credit ratings on Armstrong, the Lancaster, Pa.-based company said.

The board of AutoNation Inc.
approved an increase of $250 million in the company’ stock-buyback authorization. The move comes as AutoNation virtually exhausted the previous authorization for repurchasing common stock. AutoNation had about 124.6 million shares outstanding as of March 23, the Ft. Lauderdale-based retailer said.

Also late Friday, New Frontier Media Inc.
 said it received a second acquisition proposal, in the amount of $1.50 a share in cash. It tops an offer by investment holding company Longkloof Ltd. to buy all the outstanding New Frontier Media shares it doesn’t already own for $1.35 a share cash. New Frontier’s board has formed a special committee of independent directors to review the proposals. Boulder, Colo.-based New Frontier identified the new bidder as Manwin Holding SARL, a provider of adult entertainment.

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