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Upgrades & Downgrades: Seeds of Hope for Monsanto


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


Shares surged for a second straight session, ending near the day's highs on increased optimism over a European bank recapitalization plan and better than expected private payroll data here at home. Good gainers included Corinthian Colleges (COCO), which jumped 20.59% in an ebullient education sector, though sadly students abandoning their class en masse to walk on Wall Street may not be eligible to share in the profits. Say what you want about equity analysts -- and the most hated one in history, back in the fold, yesterday gave the green light from upon high for the unwashed masses to commence the trading of securities, an industry from which he happens to be banned for life -- but don't doubt that they move markets. An upgrade of Nielsen Holdings (NLSN) saw that stock head 5.61% higher as the world learned of the passing of its founder. Disney (DIS) gained 5.53%, bouncing off fresh 52-week lows to top the Dow after a researcher similarly raised his rating.

While Mickey Mouse fared just fine, Goldman Sachs -- already no fan of cuddly kittens -- showed its disdain for others in the animal kingdom, its downgrade of PetSmart (PETM) sending their shares lower on a day the Dow rose by triple-digits. And pancreatic cancer, not content with having just robbed us of a newly minted Nobel Prize winner, took another titan before his time. Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs went to Reed College, dropped out after a semester, was fired from his job in 1985, and later taken back but only earned a buck a year. Doesn't sound like much does it? But he helped change the world. Erroneously declared dead once before, in August of 2008, as a Buddhist he would have believed in rebirth. Let's hope that happens because the unbearable alternative is that yesterday ended an extraordinary life begun on February 24, 1955. Exactly 232 years earlier, almost to the hour, the world said goodbye to famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren, whose epitaph, etched in stone at his masterpiece St. Paul's Cathedral, could have been written on an iPad for Steve Jobs. It says simply "Reader, if you seek his monument -- look around you." Rest in peace.


Consumer Products Stocks: Nestle is begun with a Buy at Societe Generale, which assigns an identical rating on Unilever PLC (UL).

British American Tobacco (BTI): BTI is also begun with a Buy at Societe Generale.

Credit Suisse (CS): Banco Santander starts CS with an Underweight.

Auxilium Pharmaceuticals (AUXL): AUXL is initiated with a Sell at ThinkEquity.

Forest Labs
(FRX): FRX is among the pharma firms begun with a Buy at Think Equity.

Xcel Energy
(XEL): Ticonderoga has new Buy and $28 price target on XEL, which it notes trades at a discount to the large-cap blue chips of the fully regulated group segment

(GLW): The shares get picked up at an Equal Weight by Morgan Stanley.

Arkansas Best
(ABFS): ABFS is a new Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

(ADSK): The tech firm is a new Neutral at Cowen & Company.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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