Among the companies whose shares are expected to see active trade in Friday's session are International Business Machines Corp., Boston Scientific Corp., Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Dominion Homes Inc.

After Thursday's closing bell, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) said the Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a formal probe of how the technology giant disclosed earnings and expenses for stock options.

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American Retirement Corp. (ACR) forecast full-year 2006 earnings of 62 cents to 64 cents a share, including an estimated 12 cents a share in share-based, non-cash compensation expense. The Nashville, Tenn.-based provider of senior living housing and care also said it expects 2005 earnings to be close to the Thomson First Call consensus estimate of 48 cents a share.

Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) increased its bid for Guidant Corp. (GDT) to $73 a share in cash and stock. On Wednesday, Guidant said it had agreed to be acquired by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) in a cash-and-stock deal worth $68.06 a share. Boston Scientific's previous bid was $72 a share. Boston Scientific said its offer will expire Friday.

General Motors Corp. (GM) said it sold 9.17 million cars and trucks worldwide in 2005, marking the first time in 27 years it has sold more than 9 million vehicles. The automaker said 2005 sales rose 2% from the 8.99 million vehicles sold in 2004. GM cited strong sales in three regions outside of the United States for its yearly result. Vehicle purchases rose by 20% in the Asia Pacific region; by 19% in the Latin America, Africa and Middle East region; and by 1.3% in Europe. GM also said it became the top foreign automaker in China for the first time.

Everest Re Group Ltd. (RE) increased its total pretax loss estimate from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma to $1.2 billion from $1 billion, net of reinstatements. The estimates include the $300 million Wilma-related loss the Bermuda-based insurer previously disclosed on Nov. 28. For the full-year 2005, the net after-tax impact of the hurricanes is estimated at $962 million, Everest Re said. For the fourth quarter, losses arising from the hurricanes are now estimated at $492 million on a pretax basis and $395 million on an after-tax basis.

Dominion Homes Inc. (DHOM) said fourth-quarter home sales fell 41%, to 230 from 392 last year, while full-year 2005 home sales dropped by 21%, to 1,944 from 2,450 in 2004. Fourth-quarter home closings fell 6%, to 571 from 605, while 2005 home closings decreased by 24%, to 2,146 from 2,837. In addition, the Dublin, Ohio-based company said its backlog as of Dec. 31 was 430 sales contracts. Last year, the Dominion's backlog totaled 632 contracts.

Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI) said fourth-quarter profit climbed 7%, matching analyst estimates.

Neoware Inc. (NWRE) expects second-quarter revenue of $29 million, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Thursday. The King of Prussia, Pa.-based software company had revenue of $20.5 million in the same period a year ago. Neoware also said it expects its second-quarter gross profit margin to be around the mid-point of its previous forecast of 40% to 45%.

Noble International Ltd. (NOBL) named Steven Prue as president, Jay Hansen as chief operating officer and David Fallon as chief financial officer. Warren, Mich.-based Noble makes laser-welded blanks and tubes for the automotive industry.

Phazar Corp. (ANTP) after Thursday's closing bell said second-quarter net income was $699,000, or 31 cents a share, compared with $505,000, or 22 cents a share, during the year-earlier period. The antenna systems company said quarterly revenue was $3.77 million, compared with $3.3 million last year.

RC2 Corp. (RCRC) said it expects its fourth-quarter 2005 net sales to be up 11% from 2004 fourth-quarter net sales of $140.4 million. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based toy retailer also said it sees its 2005 net sales up 32% from the $381.4 million a year ago. In addition, RC2 expects 2005 earnings, excluding some items, to come in at the high end of its previous forecast of $2.40 to $2.50 a share.