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Health care stocks turned sharply lower in afternoon trade, reversing small gains around mid-day as the NYSE Health Care Index plunged just under 1.0% while shares of health care companies in the S&P 500 also were down about 1.0% as a group.

In company news, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International ( VRX ) slumped Thursday as the drugmaker reportedly is exploring the sale of its eye-surgery equipment business.

The Bausch & Lomb unit could fetch as much as $2.5 billion in a sale, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people with knowledge of the matter. But the newspaper also cautioned the talks were still in their early stages, adding Valeant could yet decide not to sell the business.

VRX shares were down almost 9% at $19.24 apiece just before today's closing bell retracing much of an earlier slide to $19.17 a share. The stock also was losing ground in Canadian trade, with VRX.TO shares dropping over 7% to C$26.33 each at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In other sector news,

(+) CCRN, Non-GAAP Q3 EPS of $0.24 per share tops analyst mean by $0.09 per share. Revenue increases 9.9% over last year to $214.99 mln, also beating by around $11.85 mln.

(-) AAC, Adjusted Q3 EPS of $0.19 misses by $0.04 per share. Revenue rises 22.8% to $70.5 mln, lagging he $73.28 mln consensus. Lowers FY16 earnings, revenue guidance below Wall Street expectations.

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