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Upgrades & Downgrades: Sprint on Its Last Legs?


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


Stocks shrugged off financial woes emanating from the birthplace of Homer, an ancient land once omnipotent and now sadly past its prime. But enough about The Simpsons. Though one would never guess from watching one of its soccer matches, Europe appears to be increasingly united in addressing the myriad financial issues of Greece and company. This, allied to a better than expected US September jobs report, sent the S&P 500 Index up 2.12% in five sessions as the Dow gained for a third week in four. Yoga clad protesters currently occupying Wall Street were left speechless as Lululemon Athletica (LULU) rose 4.6%.

As the bulls returned, the Bears got belated recognition for deeds done in 1985, the year Steve Jobs was fired. He subsequently changed the world to such a remarkable extent that Time marked the tech titan's untimely passing by introducing a new generation to an old phrase -- stop the presses. And once again misery loved company, the New York Yankees being dumped out of the playoffs by Detroit even as its primary sponsor Bank of America (BAC), emblazoned everywhere in the dugout, fell 3.59% in the Dow's worst showing. If ever a picture told a story, this was it. No top-tier economic data out this morning and the bond market is closed for Columbus Day. Earnings are expected out of Augme Technologies, Fairchild Semiconductor (FCS), Gannett (GCI), Healthcare Services (HCSG), Mistras Group (MG), Novellus Systems (NVLS), and Zep Inc (ZEP).


Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (AEGR): AEGR is initiated with Buy at Jefferies.

Sabra Healthcare REIT
(SBRA): Citigroup resumes a Buy rating on SBRA.

China Internet Stocks
: Dangdang (DANG) is begun with an Underweight by Barclays, whose Overweights include Baidu (BIDU), (SOHU), and Sina Corp (SINA).


Netflix (NFLX): NFLX is now Neutral from Sell at Janney Scott.

(POT): Ticonderoga takes POT up to Buy from Neutral and establishes a price objective of $62. Valuation is now attractive in its view, shares having over-corrected relative to corn prices.

St. Jude Medical
(STJ): Morgan Stanley moves the medical device firm to Equal Weight from Underweight.

Diamond Foods
(DMND): DMND is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

(MU): The stock gets increased to Buy from Hold at Citigroup.

CTC Media
(CTCM): Deutsche Bank boosts CTCM to Buy from Hold.

(ABB): The European engineering outfit is upgraded to Buy from Hold at boutique brokerage Berenberg.

Bally Technologies
(BYI): BYI is now Buy from Neutral at Janney Scott.

Stone Energy
(SGY): SGY is upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays.


Sprint Nextel (S): The stock is slumping before the bell after being downgraded by Deutsche Bank (Hold from Buy), Kaufman Brothers (Hold from Buy), and brokers Collins Stewart (Neutral from Buy, with a new lower target price of $3). Stewart says substantially higher cap-ex, lower wireless service margins, and significantly higher cash consumption are all concerns. See also Four Reasons Apple is Making Us Wait for the iPhone 5.

Southwest Airlines (LUV): The low cost carrier gets lowered to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

(ACN): The consulting giant gets downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird, which trims its target price by $2 to $62 from $64. After a strong stock-price run up, the risk/reward is now balanced in the light of exposure to Europe, consulting cyclicality, tougher comps, and recent FX movements.

Small-Cap Banks
: Amid a weaker short-term outlook, brokerage Robert Baird reduces ratings to Neutral from Outperform on eight firms -- Bank of Kentucky Financial (BKYF), Cardinal Financial (CFNL), First Financial Bancorp (FFBC), First Midwest Bancorp (FMBI), IberiaBank (IBKC), MB Financial (MBFI), Wintrust Financial (WTFC), and Bank of Hawaii (BOH). For related content, see A Timeline of Banking Transaction Velocity and Complexity.

TreeHouse Foods (THS): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch takes THS to Neutral from Buy.

Industrial Stocks: Emerson (EMR) and MSC Industrial (MSM) are each lowered to Neutral from Buy by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Logitech Intl SA
(LOGI): The mouse maker is moved to Underperform from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

(ILMN): The stock is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

ICON plc
(ICLR): ICLR is downgraded to Neutral at JP Morgan.

Pioneer Natural Resources
(PXD): PXD is reduced to to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays.

Talisman Energy (TLM): Barclays takes TLM to Equal Weight from Overweight.

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