Stock Upgrades: From Russia With Love? Yum Brands Is Good Enough for Gorbachev

By Justin Sharon  MAR 20, 2014 9:23 AM

Wall Street ratings agencies set the tone for today's stock market.

 


Well, that was the most contentious question to a chair since Clint Eastwood. (Nothing against Dirty Harry, incidentally. Indeed, his "Make My Day" -- and a broker boost -- evidently inspired MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ:MMYT) to a 6.01% surge, even as the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dropped by triple digits. So, yes, I do indeed feel lucky, punk.) The surprisingly specific six-month timeline of Ms. Yellen spooked markets. Surely she should have instead employed the clear-as-mud communication style of her predecessor, a man who made "purposeful obfuscation" an art form. Mind you, even being the Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) of Delphi was no prescription for prophets as its stock, downgraded today, ended off 0.75% after issuing iffy earnings. The forked-tongued Mr. Greenspan never did solve the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, and scientists are, alas, no closer to solving that timeless conundrum. Fossil (NASDAQ:FOSL) jumped 1.86% after dinosaur-digging paleontologists discovered the poultry from Dante. Plus, as we shall soon see, the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken scores a broker boost this morning. Yet I wouldn't renege on the egg, either, not after a scrap-metal dealer in America's heartland unearthed a priceless Faberge at a rummage sale. What, pray tell, would President Putin say about that? All I know is that Winston Churchill was right when at the closing of the "Iron Curtain" he also coined, "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."
 
Today in economics, February existing home sales and leading indicators, along with the Philadelphia Fed index for March, are all out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Expect corporate earnings announcements from ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG), Lennar Homes (NYSE:LEN), and Nike (NYSE:NKE).
 
American Homes 4 Rent (NYSE:AMH): Bank of America Merrill Lynch lifts the residential name to Buy from Neutral, sending it up before the bell. Its price objective is $19.
 
Cemex (NYSE:CX): The Mexican cement behemoth gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Longbow.
 
Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN): Stifel hoists the stock to Buy from Hold with a $13 target price amid an improving picture in Europe and select areas of Asia.
 
ING U.S. (NYSE:VOYA): Shares get upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank, whose objective is $43.
 
Merck KGaA (OTCMKTS:MKGAY): The German company, not to be confused with Merck (NYSE:MRK) of America, is increased to Hold from Sell at Societe Generale.
 
On Assignment (NYSE:ASGN): Wells Fargo moves the equity to Outperform from Market Perform.
 
Tornier (NASDAQ:TRNX): TRNX is taken to Outperform from Market Perform, again at Wells.
 
Ulta Salon (NASDAQ:ULTA): Goldman Sachs gives the cosmetics company a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade. Its price objective, previously $107, increases to $118.
 
UtilitiesEl Paso Electric (NYSE:EE) is now Neutral from Sell at Goldman, which also adds NRG Energy (NYSE:NRG) to the Conviction Buy list partially on account of its impressive free cash flow.
 
WellCare Group (NYSE:WCG): Shares get lifted to Outperform from Perform at Leerink Swann, which also takes its target up by $15 to $74.
 
Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM): I am seriously not liking President Putin right now, but his predecessor Comrade Gorby was on the money in endorsing Pizza Hut. Today its parent Yum Brands, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell, gets taken to Outperform from Market Perform at First Global.

Also see:

New Stock Coverage: First Day of Spring Too Late to Enjoy Aruba

Stock Downgrades: Analyst Is So Over Under Armour

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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