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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: LinkedIn, Facebook, Apple, ValueClick and Gilead Sciences

CHICAGO, Dec. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD-Free Report), Facebook (Nasdaq:FB-Free Report), Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL-Free Report), ValueClick Inc. (Nasdaq:VCLK-Free Report) and Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq:GILD-Free Report).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

LinkedIn Appeals for Lawsuit Dismissal

Reportedly, LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD-Free Report) has petitioned in a California federal court for the dismissal of a lawsuit which alleged that the professional networking company had hacked into customers' external email accounts.

In Sep 2013, some U.S. members of LinkedIn filed the lawsuit in a federal court in San Jose, California, suing the company for hacking their external email accounts and collecting contacts' addresses.

Moreover, the complaint stated that LinkedIn sent "endorsement emails" to the addresses without their consent. The lawsuit also requested the court to stop LinkedIn from violating data privacy and return any revenues generated from such actions.

Dismissing all these allegations, LinkedIn stated that when users click on buttons labeled "allow" and "add connections" in the course of filling up details of their online contract, it enables the company to contact users' addresses.

The current spate of allegations, if proven true, will hit LinkedIn's reputation. In Jun 2012, the company was sued for breaching 6.5 million LinkedIn users' passwords. However, it is worth noting that the company was acquitted in Mar 2013 and the class action lawsuit was dismissed.

It therefore appears that this is a similar case, very likely to go in LinkedIn's favor.

LinkedIn, like Facebook (Nasdaq:FB-Free Report), stores a host of personal data in its servers and therefore, data security is a priority for these companies. Although these social and professional networking companies have a good policies and security measures against external threats, there is a lack of transparency when it comes to data utilization by the companies themselves.

Nonetheless, LinkedIn has good growth potential going by the positive outlook provided by management and remains a force in the professional networking space. Additionally, the company's expansion in the mobile arena by launching apps for Apple's (Nasdaq:AAPL-Free Report) iOS and Android operating systems is a positive.

However, competition from Facebook, which is also prepping its services to cater to business customers and professionals and a volatile macroeconomic environment, could pose headwinds for the company. Moreover, the emergence of companies likes ValueClick Inc. (Nasdaq:VCLK-Free Report), which has been introducing new services at regular intervals, could also bring about a rapid change in the scenario.

Currently, LinkedIn has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

FDA Clears Gilead's Sovaldi

Gilead Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq:GILD-Free Report) received a boost when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its potential blockbuster drug Sovaldi (sofosbuvir: once daily) as a combination therapy for treating patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV),  the primary reason behind liver cancer and liver transplantation in the U.S. The approval of the all-oral HCV treatment does not surprise us as its approval was recommended by an advisory panel of the FDA in Oct 2013. The FDA was scheduled to render its decision by Dec 8 (target date). The U.S. regulatory body, however, cleared Sovaldi a couple of days ahead of the scheduled target date.

Gilead gained U.S. approval for Sovaldi on the basis of encouraging data from four phase III studies – NEUTRINO, FISSION, POSITRON and FUSION. Gilead had submitted the new drug application in April this year. Moreover, the FDA also considered data from two other phase III studies (VALENCE and PHOTON-1) after assigning Sovaldi the breakthrough designation status.

The approval of Sovaldi is a ig positive for HCV patients as it would not only bring down the duration of therapy to a minimum of 12 weeks but would also eliminate/reduce the duration of peg-IFN injections depending on the genotype of the disease. Currently, HCV therapy includes up to 48 weeks of treatment with a regimen inclusive of injectable peg-IFN. Moreover, the current standard of care comes with several side effects which make it difficult for patients to remain on treatment.

The FDA cleared the drug after reviewing the application on a priority basis as an all-oral therapy for treating patients affected with genotypes 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the virus. Specifically, the FDA approved Sovaldi combined with ribavirin for treating HCV patients with genotypes 2 or 3 of the virus, requiring 12 weeks and 24 weeks of treatment, respectively. The approval of the Sovaldi containing regimen marks the clearance of the first all oral treatment for treating chronic HCV patients with genotypes 2 or 3. Sovaldi in combination with ribavirin can also be used to treat chronic HCV patients awaiting liver transplantation to prevent the recurrence of the virus after transplant.

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