Morning Buzz: Apple (AAPL), Cytokinetics (CYTK), NephroGenex (NRX), RedHill Biopharma (RDHL), Pacific Ethanol (PEIX)

Apple Inc. (AAPL) — According to the latest forecasts from market intelligence firm ABI Research, the tech giant is on track to post its first yearly decline in iPad sales since the device was introduced. But the report also said Cupertino should reverse that trend in 2015, with overall tablet sales rising 16%.

“Historically, Apple has counted approximately 35% of its iPad sales in the last calendar quarter of the year,” says Senior Practice Director Jeff Orr. “Unless Apple can pull off a 32+ million unit quarter, sales for CY2014 will be down for the first year since the iPad launched.” ABI Research predicts Apple iPad to reach nearly 68 million in 2014, compared to just over 74 million shipped in 2013.

Apple shares are up 0.36% in Wednesday premarket trading to $112.93. The stock’s 52-wk range is $70.51 to $119.75, and the medium consensus analyst price target is $122 with a high target of $150. Shares of Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker have risen 40.63% year-over-year and 40.39% year-to-date. Apple ended regular trading Tuesday with a market cap of $659.91 billion.

Cytokinetics, Incorporated (CYTK) – The clinical stage biopharmaceutical company had its price target raised to $18 from $13 at ROTH Capital. The equity research firm said it raised its CYTK target as they believe the company has provided important partnering validation on two fronts with Amgen (AMGN) and Astellas (ALPMY), thus far, and expect important regulatory visibility and data readouts in 2015.

CYTK shares recently gained $0.33 to $7.23. The stock is up more than 4.39% year-over-year and has gained roughly 6.15% year-to-date. In the past 52 weeks, shares of South San Francisco, Calif.-based firm have traded between a low of $3.05 and a high of $13.26.

Cytokinetics closed Tuesday at $6.90. The name has a total market cap of $252.60 million.

NephroGenex, Inc. (NRX) shares spiked 220% in pre-market hours Wednesday after the company announced the successful completion of a thorough QT/QTc cardiac safety study on Pyridorin.

“These are important study results that support the use of Pyridorin in patients with diabetic nephropathy, many of whom suffer from cardiovascular disease. They are also important given the concerns over cardiac safety seen with other therapies in development for this disease,” said NephroGenex CEO Pierre Legault. “The overall excellent safety profile we are continuing to see, along with the promising efficacy shown in our Phase 2 trials, continues to suggest that Pyridorin has the potential to broadly address the unmet therapeutic needs of the more than 6 million diabetic patients with kidney disease.”

NRX shares recently gained $10.15 to $14.80. In the past 52 weeks, shares of Research Triangle Park, NC-based company have traded between a low of $3.96 and a high of $13.00. Shares are down nearly 60% year-to-date.

RedHill Biopharma Ltd. (RDHL) is seeing a big move in early trade Wednesday, as the company’s shares surged by over 18% on news that the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has validated the Marketing Authorization Application for BEKINDA (RHB-102), a proprietary once-daily oral pill formulation of the antiemetic drug ondansetron, targeting a worldwide potential market with estimated annual sales of $940 million. RedHill said MHRA’s feedback is expected during H2/2015.

Shares of RedHill gained $1.98 to $12.71 in recent trading.

Pacific Ethanol, Inc. (PEIX) today announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, Inc. under which Pacific Ethanol will acquire all of Aventine’s outstanding shares in a stock-for-stock merger transaction.

“This transaction will more than double our annual ethanol production capacity, and it will establish PEIX as the fifth largest producer and marketer of ethanol in the United States”, said in a statement Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Pacific Ethanol expects to issue 17.75 million shares of its common stock upon closing in exchange for all of the issued and outstanding shares of Aventine’s common stock.

Shares of Pacific Ethanol are higher by 6.63% to $11.42 in premarket trading on Wednesday.

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