Berkshire Hathaway gains at open as stock to be added to S&P 500

Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE:BRK-B – News) shares gained at the open on Friday as investors were optimistic about the stock’s coming addition to the S&P 500 index (^SPX – News) after the close. [Read the full article]

European and U.S. markets fell Friday after China tightened its monetary policy to cool off growth and official figures showed the eurozone’s recovery from recession nearly stalled in the fourth quarter.

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European indexes had been higher earlier, buoyed by hopes that the EU will provide support to its most heavily indebted member states, but by the afternoon that optimism was dampened, pushing the euro to a nine-month low.

Britain’s FTSE 100 benchmark index was down 0.6 percent at 5,130.77 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.5 percent to 5,479.21. France’s CAC-40 slid 0.3 percent to 3,606.17 and Greek and Portuguese stocks also fell.

Asia had largely closed higher before China announced its move to limit lending, and Wall Street fell on the open. [Read the full article]

Shares of restaurant operators were mixed Friday as analysts were pleased with some of their quarterly results but disappointed by others.

WedBush’s Rachael Rothman said a small increase in a key sales figure at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. may have let down investors. While the casual dining chain reported sales at stores open at least a year rose 2 percent, the analyst said the market was likely expecting a bigger increase.

This sales figure is a key indicator of retailer performance since it measures growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

Rothman wrote in a client note that Chipotle’s reiteration of its 2010 forecast for flat sales at stores open at least a year was also likely to get a poor market reaction, as the Denver-based company had indicated that traffic was positive and its fourth-quarter same-store sales results did top analysts’ expectations. [Read the full article]

Shares of Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. surged to a two-year high Friday, a day after the collector of bad debt reported fourth-quarter results showing record cash collections.

The company’s results reflected a 17 percent increase in quarterly profits to $12.4 million, or 80 cents per share, from $10.6 million, or 69 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected income of 72 cents per share on revenue of $71.4 million.

Keefe, Bruyette and Woods analyst Sameer Gokhale said the results were “substantially stronger” than expected, citing both revenue and the cash collections of $95.3 million.

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Portfolio Recovery’s shares rose $6.62, or 14.9 percent, to $51.04 in afternoon trading. They earlier traded at $51.84, their highest price since mid-2007. [Read the full article]

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