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Thursday’s most followed in U.S. including Ebix, Finisar, Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining, Rite Aid, Durect and Walt Disney

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U.S. shares dropped more than 1 percent in midday trading on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve outlined the start of a wind-down of stimulus. The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (INDEXDJX:.DJI) fell 1.7 percent, and the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) skidded 1.8 percent at 11:20 a.m. in New York. Most followed shares included Ebix, Finisar, Barrick Gold, Rite Aid, Newmont Mining and Walt Disney.

In technology shares, Ebix Inc. (NASDAQ:EBIX), a maker of insurance software, dropped by half to as low as $9.85, the lowest intraday price in four years. Goldman Sachs on Wednesday terminated an agreement to buy Ebix for $20 a share after federal prosecutors started an investigation of the Atlanta, Georgia-based company. Ebix said in a statement that the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta wrote in a letter that it was probing allegations of intentional misconduct. 

Finisar Corp. (NASDAQ:FNSR), a maker of optical data equipment, stretched gains for a third day, jumping 11 percent to $16.09 as its quarterly-profit forecast beat estimates. The Sunnyvale, California-based company said it anticipates earnings in the range of 22 cents to 26 cents a share for the first quarter ending July. That topped the average analyst estimate of 20 cents a share. 

NetSol Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ:NTWK), which provides IT consultancy services, added 2.6 percent to $10.43, after saying it has signed a new deal valued at more than $10 million to carry out its NetSol Financial Suite Platform for a major global auto-captive finance company. 

In mining shares, Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE:ABX), the world’s largest gold producer, extended losses for a fifth day, giving up 8.4 percent to a record low of $16.99 as gold plunged as much as 4.8 percent to the lowest price since September 2010.  

Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE:NEM), the biggest U.S. gold producer, stretched losses for a third day, falling 5.2 percent to $30.64, the lowest intraday price in more than four years, as Cowen downgraded its rating to "market perform" from "outperform" with a $31.84 price target, citing valuation.  

In pharmaceuticals, Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE:RAD), the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain, fell 4.5 percent to $2.90 after lowering its full-year earnings guidance even as it reported a turnaround to profit for the third consecutive quarter. Full-year earnings for fiscal 2014 are expected to be in the range of a penny a share and 16 cents a share, the Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based company said in a statement on Thursday. This compared with an earlier guidance of 4 cents to 20 cents a share. 

Durect Corp. (NASDAQ:DRRX), a specialty pharmaceutical company, climbed almost 23 percent to $1.02. The Cupertino, California-based company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted a new drug application for an investigational product that helps with postoperative pain.

In other stocks, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS), the world's largest entertainment company, shed 2.6 percent to $62.67 after Goldman Sachs removed the shares from its "conviction buy" list.

Panera Bread Co. (NASDAQ:PNRA), a restaurant chain, edged down 1.1 percent to $184.82. Deutsche Bank removed the stock from its "short-term buy" list, citing valuation and passage of key catalysts. 

SandRidge Energy Inc. (NYSE:SD), an oil-and-gas producer, fell 1.6 percent to $5 after its founder Tom Ward was ousted as its chief executive and chairman, and will take one of the biggest severance packages seen in the energy industry–about $90 million, the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based company said. 

Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. (NYSE:AHT), a lodging industry real estate investment trust, slumped 6.5 percent to $12.71. The Dallas, Texas-based company has commenced an offering of 11 million shares as it looks to raise funds for the spinoff of its 80 percent ownership in an eight-hotel portfolio as a new company called Ashford Hospitality Prime Inc. 

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