Hot Stocks to Watch Today: DDS, JCP, RAX, and 9 More Movers

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Today's list of hot stocks to watch includes a retailer hitting an all-time high, a healthcare giant inking a $2.9 billion deal for a Latin American drug company, a couple of companies climbing on Warren Buffett buys, and a Chinese jeweler surging on robust sales of its original gold coin.

Check out these 12 hot stocks on the move Friday, and find out what's behind their action.

12 Hot Stocks to Watch Today

Hot StocksAbbott Laboratories Inc. (NYSE: ABT) starts off our list of hot stocks to watch today. Shares rose nearly 1% to $39.79 in morning trading on M&A news. The Abbott Park, Ill.- based healthcare company agreed Friday to buy Chilean drug company CFR Pharmaceuticals for $2.9 billion. With the acquisition, Abbott aims to bolster its offering of branded generic drugs in Latin America. CFR is based in Santiago, Chile.

Applied Material Inc. (NYSE: AMAT) shares jumped 7% to $20.29 after reporting a 19% increase in Q2 sales. The semiconductor company also swung to a profit and posted its best operating margin in nearly three years. Santa Clara, Calif.-based AMAT anticipates sales in the current quarter will rise another 13% to 19% from the same period a year ago.

Dillard's Inc. (NYSE: DDS) shares soared nearly 15% to an all-time high of $110.09 on solid Q1 2014 earnings. The fashion apparel, cosmetics, and home furnishings retailer reported Q1 earnings per share (EPS) of $2.56, comfortably better than consensus estimates of $2.41. Revenue came in at $1.55 billion, a tad shy of the $1.6 billion expected. Comparable sales, however, rose 2% year over year. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) William Dillard said in a statement the 2% increase in same-store sales marked the 15th consecutive quarter of positive sales.

Earthstone Energy Inc. (NYSE: ESTE) shares surged nearly 21.85% to a 52-week high of $26.26. The Denver-based oil and natural gas company announced it will acquire all the subsidiaries of privately held Oak Valley Resources. Included in the deal are Oak Valley's producing assets, undeveloped acreage, and approximately $138 million in cash. The lot will be exchanged for about 9.1 million shares of ESTE.

Home Bancshares Inc. (Nasdaq: HOMB) shares climbed 2% to $30.60 thanks to a pair of upgrades. Keefe Bruyette & Woods (KBW) raised its rating on the Conway, Ark.-based commercial and retail bank to "Outperform" from "Market Perform" with a $35 price target. Drexel upgraded HOMB to "Buy," also giving the stock a $35 price target. Drexel cited valuation as the reason for the upgrade, as HOMB shares are down some 23% year to date.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) shares surged more than 16% to $9.93 intraday after posting a surprising Q1 2014 earnings beat Thursday after the close. Sales at established stores climbed 6.2% in the latest period, handily topping expectations. "Despite a difficult retail environment, our strong performance during the Easter holiday period and other key promotional events enabled us to deliver better than anticipated sales result," CEO Myron E. Ullman said in a statement. The retailer also said it obtained a new credit line that expands its borrowing capacity.

Kingold Jewelry Inc. (Nasdaq: KGJI) shares surged 30% to $1.73 in morning trading. More than 2.25 million shares changed hands in the first hour of trading, compared to the stock's average daily volume of 270,084 shares. The Wuhan, China jewelry company reported Q1 EPS of $0.24, up from $0.05 in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue soared 38.9% year over year to $307.5 million. Chairman and CEO Zhi Hong Jia said Kingold's original design, the "Buddha Gold Coin," was a big hit during the 2014 Chinese New Year sales season. He also provided an optimistic outlook for the rest of 2014.

Rackspace Hosting Inc. (NYSE: RAX) shares surged more than 20% to $37.37 after the cloud computing and web IT company said it is mulling sales offers. "In recent months, Rackspace has been approached by multiple parties who have expressed intent in exploring a strategic relationship with Rackspace, ranging from partnership to acquisition," a company Securities and Exchange Commission filing read. The San Antonio, Texas company noted it has hired Morgan Stanley to evaluate proposals. Potential acquirers include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN). Credit Suisse reckons RAX shares could fetch as much as $47.

TrueCar Inc. (Nasdaq: TRUE) shares surge 17.69% to $10.75 shortly after its debut on the Nasdaq. The Internet-based company that allows users to obtain prices on new and used cars, priced its IPO of 7.8 million shares at $9 each. That was well below the expected range of $12 to $14 per share. The $9 price gave the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company a market cap of $747 million and an enterprise value of $648 million.

Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE: UNP) shares jumped 1.36% to $194.75, a 52-week high. The Omaha, Neb.-based railroad company unveiled a 2-for-1 stock split and said it will increase 2014's capital spending to $4.1 billion.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) shares climbed 2.52% to $49.30 on news Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway's Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) took a position in VZ in Q1 2014. Buffett added a fresh 11 million share stake in Verizon in Q1 to his conglomerate's portfolio. The position represents 0.27% of Berkshire's holdings and was the firm's only new investment disclosed.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) shares ticked up 0.50% to $77.39 on brisk volume. Shares of the multinational retail chain also moved on Buffett news. The Oracle of Omaha upped his stake in WMT by 17% to 58.05 million shares in Q1 2014. The additional 8.57 million shares are worth some $658 million at the stock's closing price on Thursday of $76.83. WMT is now Berkshire's fifth largest U.S. stock stake.

Today's Top Investing Story: It's commonly held wisdom that stocks go down when interest rates rise, but it pays to do your research before you hit the "sell" button. The truth is that you can make money in stocks no matter what interest rates do - and here are three stocks that prove it.