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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Shares of McDonald's Corp. slipped 0.6% in premarket trade Thursday, after Piper Jaffray downgraded the fast-food restaurant giant, citing concerns about valuation following the recent run up in the stock price. Analyst Nicole Miller Regan cut her rating to neutral from overweight, while maintaining her price target at $97, which is 3.2% below Wednesday's closing price of $100.25. The stock, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has surged 13% from Jan. 28 through Wednesday's close, compared with a 5.3% gain in the Dow. "Strength behind this move, in our opinion, may be attributed to industry buzz around likely strategies to be deployed by new management as well as the prior changing of the guard (i/e, new CEO) announcement itself," Regan wrote in a note to clients. "However, our industry conversations suggest the number and relative complexity of forthcoming initiatives may lead to a longer-than-expected recovery." She believes the stock will likely remain range-bound over the coming year.

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch)--The European Central Bank on Thursday left official interest rates unchanged, as expected. The ECB's main refinancing rate remains at 0.05%. The focus will be on ECB President Mario Draghi's news conference, in which he's expected to reveal technical details of the bank's asset-buying plan. The ECB in January said it would buy 60 billion euros ($66.3 billion) of government bonds and other debt as part of a long-awaited quantitative easing program aimed at keeping deflation at bay.

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- American Eagle Outfitters Inc. shares rose 1.5% in premarket trade Thursday, after Stifel Research upgraded the stock to buy from hold, following better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and sales and an upbeat outlook for the current quarter. "Our outlook regarding AEO shares has grown more favorable," analysts wrote in a note. "Thus far in 1Q, sales trends have accelerated as customers are responding favorably to the company's spring floorset. We believe the momentum of AEO's merchandise turnaround is strong and sustainable." Shares have climbed 34% in the last three months, outperforming the S&P 500's 1.1% gain.

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Specialty drugs company Mallinckrodt plc said Thursday it has agreed to buy privately-held critical care company Ikaria Inc. from an investor group led by private-equity firm Madison Dearborn, in a deal valued at about $2.3 billion. The company said it expects the deal to close in the second quarter and to add $150 million to net sales and 25 cents to 2015 adjusted per-share earnings. Ikaria develops therapies for critically ill infants in neonatal intensive care unit settings. It's lead product INOmax is a vasodilator which is used to treat newborns with respiratory illness. Mallinckrodt said the deal will "significantly strengthen its footprint in hospitals, extending its presence from its current base of diagnostic radiology and multimodal pain management in surgical specialties to include critical care respiratory therapies in neonatal intensive care units." The company will finance the deal with cash on hand and borrowing under its existing revolver and debt. Goldman Sachs acted as financial adviser, while Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Arthur Cox in Ireland were legal advisers. Mallinckrodt shares rose 1% in premarket trade, and are up 21.5% in the last three months, while the S&P 500 has gained 1.1%.

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- 3M announced on Thurday a revised policy to ensure that all virgin wood fiber used in its paper-based products and packaging are from sources that protect forests and respect human rights. The company, which makes Post-it notes and Scotch tape, will hold a conference call Thursday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern to provide details on its new policy. 3M joins the parade of kinder, gentler companies, including Akorn Inc. , which announced Wednesday that it will no longer let its products to be used in lethal injections, and McDonald's Corp. , which said it will stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics important to human health. 3M's stock, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has ganied 3% in the past three months, while the Dow has edged up 0.8%.

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LONDON (MarketWatch) -- The Bank of England made no changes to monetary policy at its meeting on Thursday, as expected, maintaining its lending rate at a record low of 0.5%. The rate has now been at the level for six years, since March 2009. The bank's quantitative-easing program was also left unchanged at 375 billion pounds ($571.4 billion). Minutes from Thursday's meeting will be released on March 18. The pound traded at $1.5246 after the rate decision, compared with $1.5266 late Wednesday in New York. The FTSE 100 index held gains, rising 0.4% to 6,947.61.

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