Hot Stocks: JetBlue, Vonage Among Big Movers

Analyst actions and earnings updates were some of the catalysts behind the most actively traded stocks on Thursday.

JetBlue Airways was one of a few bright spots in a down trading day. Shares rose after the company said it replaced its chief executive. The discount airline said JetBlue veteran Dave Barger will take over for founder David Neeleman, who will stay with the company as non-executive chairman.

Vonage Holdings shares rose as much as 11% before paring gains after the Internet-based phone services provider posted results for the first quarter. The company remains embroiled in a patent dispute with telecom giant Verizon Communications . "We have battled through an extremely difficult quarter and will continue the fight in the courtroom."

Nektar Therapeutics reported a narrower-than-expected loss late Wednesday due to a jump in revenue for inhaled insulin Exubera, sending shares of the small biotech firm up 7%. The company reported a quarterly loss of 28 cents a share on sales of $85 million, compared with analysts' forecasted loss of 34 cents a share on sales of $57.5 million.

Shares of Pacific Ethanol rose 10% after the gas producer reported strong first-quarter results. The company posted a profit of 5 cents a share, for the quarter on revenue of $99 million, compared with analysts' forecasts of 5 cents in earnings on revenue of $91 million. WR Hambrecht upgraded the company to "hold" from "sell" on Thursday. "The company has shown us it can be profitable in a tough pricing environment," said analyst John Roy.

On the losing side, Hershey Foods shares fell after the chocolate maker cut its 2007 earnings forecast, a day after announcing closure of two plants and job cuts at a third.

Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "buy" and lowered the price target to $54 from $60. "It may be worth staying with this stock in advance of 2008, but we no longer feel comfortable with the sales and earnings base in 2007 so we are stepping to the sidelines," said analyst Robert Moskow, in a client note.

Shares of Whole Foods Market International declined sharply after the organic grocery stores operator posted lower quarterly profit late Wednesday.