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Market Insider | What's Shaking | Earnings to Watch | Before the Bell

Check out which companies are making headlines before the bell on Thursday:

Biogen Idec - The drugmaker's experimental ALS drug failed to meet its primary endpoint in a trial, and the company said it plans to discontinue development.

Hormel - The food producer will buy the Skippy peanut butter brand from Unilever United States for about $700 million.

Cisco Systems - The networking equipment maker's stock has been upgraded to "outperform" from "sector perform" by RBC Capital Markets. RBC said Cisco's execution is improving and its margins are stabilizing, among other factors.

General Growth Properties - Major shareholder Brookfield Asset Management has bought warrants from Bill Ackman's Pershing Square that convey the right to buy more than 18 million shares of the mall operator. Ackman, who had been pushing for a sale of the company, has now agreed to limit his stake to 9.9 percent, while Brookfield has offered GGP the right to buy those warrants from it for the same price it paid.

Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase - Stern Agee has upgraded both banks to "buy" from "neutral," citing an improved economy, a better housing sector, and the fact that big bank stocks have generally been out of favor.

Family Dollar - The discount retailer reported quarterly profit of $0.69 per share, below estimates of $0.75. Revenues were in line with estimates, but the company called the holiday shopping season "challenging."

Advanced Micro Devices - The chipmaker has appointed interim Chief Financial Officer Devinder Kumar as its permanent CFO. Kumar has been with the company for 28 years, most recently as corporate controller.

Buffalo Wild Wings - The company has a new major shareholder, with Steven Cohen's SAC Capital disclosing a 5 percent stake in the restaurant operator.

Microsoft - The software giant has reportedly bought a home technology startup called id8 Group R2 Studios for an undisclosed amount. The company focuses on home and entertainment apps, such as a recently introduced Android app that lets users control home heating and lighting systems from smartphones.

Safeway - Safeway said its chairman and chief executive officer, Steve Burd, will retire at the supermarket operator's annual meeting on May 14. Burd joined Safeway in October 1992 and was named chief executive officer the following year. Safeway said it will consider both internal and external candidates as possible successors.

Starbucks - Starbucks is introducing $1 reusable plastic cups at its stores today. The coffee chain already gives small discounts for customers bringing in their own cups, and is hoping this will accelerate that trend.

Apple - Apple is said to be interested in buying mobile maps app company Waze, according to TechCrunch. The report said Apple and Waze have been in talks, but are somewhat far apart on price.

Google - The company may be settling with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as soon as today in the ongoing probe into Google's search practices, according to multiple reports. The probe centers around the contention that Google puts its own products higher up in search results than that of competitors, something that Google has repeatedly denied.

Costco Wholesale - The warehouse retailer is reporting a 9 percent increase in December same-store sales, above the 6.5 percent increase that analysts had been forecasting.

Commercial Metals - Investor Carl Icahn has cut his stake in Commercial Metals to 6.17 percent from a prior 7.49 percent, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

UnitedHealth, Wellpoint Health - The health-care stocks have been downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at Deutsche Bank, which cited a negative spread between premium increases and self-funded medical cost projections for this year.

Limited Brands - The retail chain reported a December same-store sales increase of 3 percent, below analyst estimates of a 4.5 percent increase

(Read More: See CNBC's Market Insider Blog)

—By CNBC's Peter Schacknow

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