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Stock Upgrades: JPMorgan Having a Whale of a Time

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

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The 10th Day of Christmas, featuring 10 Lords a Leaping, is actually today, but stocks got a jump-start yesterday, and made investors everywhere feel like kings with a stellar first session of 2013. Zipcar (ZIP) surged 47.82% to top all Nasdaq (^IXIC) issues, which should please Bill Clinton, longstanding member of the "zipper club." (This kind, not the other kind.) His wife Hillary was happily released from hospital after a nasty concussion but there was no such luck for Skullcandy (SKUL), which tumbled 12.71% to a record low on an otherwise excellent day for stocks after getting downgraded. And there wasn't a dry eye in the house as CBS Corp. (CBS) gained 3.29% to an historic peak. Blink, however, and you missed it.

Today's quarterly earnings announcements are due to include A. Schulman (SHLM), Family Dollar (FDO), Piedmont Natural Gas (PNY), Sonic Corp. (SONC), and Worthington Industries (WOR).

Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR): Citigroup increases its opinion to Buy from Neutral amid optimism for the pricing power of the Ampyra brand. Its price target is now $33, up from $28.

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU): The French telecom titan gets taken to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse, sending shares up sharply before this morning's opening bell.

Becton Dickinson (BDX): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal-Weight from Underweight.

Cisco Systems (CSCO): RBC Capital raises its recommendation on the Dow (^DJI) stock to Outperform from Sector Perform amid improving earnings visibility and a stabilization in margins. Its target price is also increased, by $3 to $21.

Host Hotels & Resorts (HST): Heartened by reduced renovation activity, JPMorgan hoists HST to Overweight from Neutral. Its price target is also increased, by $2 to $20.

Huntsman Corp. (HUN): Shares are boosted to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup, which cites its expectation that demand will improve in the second half of 2013.

Interpublic Group (IPG): The advertising giant gets upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Large Cap Financials: Saying the fiscal cliff agreement should improve earnings at big banks, JMP Securities gives Market Perform-from-Underperform upgrades to Dow component Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (GS), and Morgan Stanley (MS).

Large Cap Financials: Citigroup and Dow member JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) are each now Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee, which sets respective price objectives of $50 and $52. For the former, a recent CEO switch "is a game changer" while the latter is expected to benefit from improving credit quality as its "London Whale" issues increasingly recede.

Medtronic (MDT): Mizuho moves the medical device maker to Buy from Neutral, taking its target up by to $49 from $43 in the process. Favorable tailwinds include the expansion of insurance under health care reform starting in 2014.

Melco Crown Entertainment (MPEL): Shares are increased to Conviction Buy from Buy at Goldman Sachs, which sees earnings estimate upside with the opening of Sands Cotai Central.

Priceline.com (PCLN): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the online travel outfit to Buy from Neutral.

SunPower (SPWR): The stock is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Lazard.

Tech Stocks: Brooks Automation (BRKS) and MKS Instruments (MKSI) are both moved to Equal-Weight from Underweight by Barclays, which takes KLA-Tencor (KLAC) to Overweight from Equal-Weight.

Toll Brothers (TOL): The home builder is taken to Hold from Sell at Stifel Nicolaus.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Aflac Not All It's Quacked Up to Be and New Stock Coverage: Sun Rises on Western Gas.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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