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Upgrades & Downgrades: Tupperware Party Put On Hold


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

On November 30, we honored the patron saint of Scotland. Since citizens of that fine country are known to be fiercely protective of cash - rumor has it, copper wire was inadvertently invented by two kilted clansmen fighting for a penny - yesterday's money making machine on Wall Street will surely have met with their approval. A decade to the day after the birth of the "BRIC" gave rise to an emerging market mania, the old world stuck back in some style to show they are still quite capable of calling the shots. Carefully coordinated action to boost lending by six age old central banks - the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Switzerland - sent stocks surging on an equally encouraging increase in volume. The Dow's single best day since the March 2009 market low brought it back above 12,000 again and the S&P 500 Index, although it nonetheless ended down 0.51% in November, similarly rose for a third straight session. An uptick in private payrolls last month, Chicago-area manufacturing activity increasing to a 28-week peak, and good gains in October pending home sales only added to the irrational exuberance.

Amid stellar showings almost everywhere, United States Steel (X) was the standout with a gain of 15.34% to top all S&P 500 advancers. (The metal has the Midas touch; a Man of Steel who went for a dime in the depths of the Depression sold for $2,161,000 at auction yesterday.) While the market roared back to life however, cemetery operator StoneMor Partners (STON) tumbled 12.50% - though the funeral industry is apparently a favored career choice of Hollywood superstars. And an analyst downgrade sent Netflix (NFLX) shares nose-diving 4.50% to a fresh 52-week low. Not so surprising, really. After all, for all yesterday's ebullience, the nasty feeling remains that we have seen this movie before, and there's no absolutely guarantee of it ending well. This morning in economics, analysts expect increases in November's Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index and October construction spending, each out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Today's earnings are due to include Ascena Retail Group (ASNA), Barnes & Noble (BKS), Kroger Co (KR), Movado (MOV), and Zumiez (ZUMZ).


Marriot Vacations (VAC): Shares are begun at a Hold by Deutsche Bank.

Moneygram (MGI): The stock is started at Outperform by JMP Securities.

Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI): Jefferies has a Hold on the healthcare company.

Schnitzer Steel (SCHN): Auriga starts the stock at a Hold.

Food stocks: Fresh Del Monte (FDP) is a Hold at Auriga, which begins Buys on both Dole Food (DOLE) and Chiquita Brands (CQB).

Amphenol (APH): KeyBanc Capital begins shares with a Buy rating and assigns a price objective of $55. They call the company among the highest quality operators in its group, and expect shares to outperform peers into fiscal 2012.

Abovenet (ABVT): Piper Jaffray picks up ABVT at Overweight.

TE Connectivity (TEL): TEL is launched with a Buy and $41 target price at KeyBanc.


Procter & Gamble (PG): RBC Capital raises its recommendation on the Dow member to Outperform from Sector Perform.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ): The key Dow component, up an impressive 5.04% in last month's turbulent market, begins December by being boosted to Sector Perform from Underperform at Pacific Crest.

Allergan (AGN): AGN is boosted to Buy from Hold with a $95 target at Argus, This after the Botox maker reported solid 3Q 2011 sales growth across a range of product categories and continues to expand its offerings.

US Airways (LCC): Barclays lifts LCC to Overweight from Equal Weight, sending shares up sharply before the bell. Also read Why US Airways Wants a Deal With American.

Dollar Financial (DLLR): The stock is added FBR Capital's Top Picks List. The broker notes shares now trade at just 7.0 times fiscal (June) 2013 Earnings Per Share, a considerable discount to competitors.

HomeAway (AWAY): AWAY is upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at Pacific Crest.

USG Corporation (USG): The industrial outfit gets an Outperform-from-Sector Perform increase at RBC Capital.

Seagate Technology (STX): Shares, already on an impressive recent run, are lifted to Buy from Hold at Argus this morning.


WebMD Health (WBMD): Cowen cuts the stock to Neutral from Outperform.

Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA): Suntrust takes the generic drug giant to Neutral from Buy.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers ONXX to Neutral from Buy.

Consumer Products: Tupperware (TUP) and Spectrum Brands (SPB) are both now Hold from Buy at Suntrust.

Fiat SpA: The Italian car company and Chrysler owner is cut by an unusual 180 degrees, to Underweight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK): Shares are cut to Hold from Buy with a $28 target at Wunderlich. While capital remains abundant, they would wait for a cheaper entry point to revisit the name.

National Penn Bancshares (NPBC): The regional bank is pulled from FBR Capital's list of Top Picks.

PNM Resources (PNM): Suntrust reduces its rating to Neutral from Buy, sending the stock lower ahead of the open.

Unum Group (UNM): The insurance outfit gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Suntrust.

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