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Upgrades & Downgrades: Travelers Is Going Places


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

The Dow Average ($DJI) advanced for a fifth session on admittedly light volume to approach a one-month peak, gains increasing in the afternoon amid heightened optimism over a European bailout deal. Indeed even Belgium, the continent's de facto capital whose native cartoon characters Tintin and The Smurfs can't hold a candle to the silliness of its politicians, now has a government after a world-record 541 days without one. Mr. Market gave us plenty of food for thought, the cuisine of a country appearing to eerily echo its economic strength. Darden Restaurants (DRI) tumbled 12.38% to post the poorest performance of all S&P 500 stocks after cutting sales forecasts. Italy, home to a debt to GDP ratio of 120%, clearly can't catch a break, insult being added to injury by ads from the Olive Garden owner that are almost beyond parody (though some have tried.)

Moving from worst to wurst, German frankfurter chain Nathan's Famous (NATH) was first among equals in increasing 10.01% to a new high. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) meanwhile ended an otherwise up day down 1.42% as a presidential candidate south of the border digested a portion of humble pie. Where's the beef? Well Wendy's (WEN), famously founded by a high school dropout, gained 4.12% even as a new report counted the frightening financial cost of high school dropouts. And Oxford Industries (OXM) surged 6.12% after impressive earnings from the maker of Tommy Bahama tropical shirts. Seven decades ago today, our shirt sleeved Hawaiian heroes were called into action against infamy. This afternoon in economics, a slippage is seen in October consumer credit at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. On the earnings front Greif Inc (GEF) and Korn/Ferry International (KFY) are each expected to report results.


Travelers Cos (TRV): The Dow member is a new Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Big box retailers: Dow component Wal-Mart (WMT) is a new Neutral at UBS, as is Costco (COST). For related content, please see 6 Tips for Saving Money While You Spend for the Holidays.

Internet stocks: (AMZN), eBay Inc (EBAY), and Pandora Media (P) are all picked up at Hold by Canaccord Genuity, which begins Buys on Google (GOOG), LinkedIn (LNKD), IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI), and Zillow (Z). Also read Google Pressured to Quit Chamber of Commerce.

Auto dealerships: Keybanc Capital has Holds on Asbury Automotive (ABG), AutoNation (AN), and Sonic Automotive (SAH). It begins Buys on Lithia Motors (LAD) ($30 target price), Group 1 Automotive (GPI) ($63), and Penske Automotive (PAG) ($28).

Application software: Mizuho Securities starts Buys on Broadsoft (BSFT), Nuance Communications (NUAN), and Synaptics (SYNA) with respective price objectives of $43, $28, and $36. j2 Global Communications (JCOM) is rated a new Neutral.

Medical stocks: Cantor Fitzgerald has Hold rated coverage on Hologic (HOLX) ($18 price target) and Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) ($450). It begins Buys on both Conceptus (CPTS) and Varian Medical (VAR) and sets objectives of $14 and $75, respectively.

Healthcare companies: Auriga launches Holds on Laboratory Corp (LH) and Quest Diagnostics (DGX).

Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN): Shares are assigned an Accumulate at Global Hunter Securities, which sets a $14 target. The company's main value driver is Bydureon, for type II diabetes and AMLN is awaiting a January 28, 2012 PDUFA date for the drug. If approved, a launch is expected in the first quarter of 2012.

Moneygram (MGI): Morgan Stanley starts shares at an Outperform.

Target (TGT): UBS begins Buy rated coverage on the retailer.

Talbots (TLB): TLB us now Neutral from Underperform with Wedbush.

Comerica (CMA): Shares are begun with a Buy rating with Wunderlich, which sets a $34 price target. Accelerated revenue and, ultimately, earnings growth, should propel shares meaningfully higher.

JDS Uniphase (JDSU): Jefferies begins JDSU at a Buy, sending shares up before the bell.

Generac (GNRC): The electronic equipment outfit is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.


Dollar General (DG): The discount retailer gets a Buy-from-Hold boost at Deutsche Bank.

Nike (NKE): The athletic apparel outfit, downgraded earlier in the week, is this morning added to Top Picks Live list at Citigroup.

Blackstone (BX): Argus boost BX to Buy from Hold with a $20 target amid extraordinary recent growth in the firm's assets under management and associated fees.

Comstock (CRK): The company is upgraded to Outperform from Perform with a $30 price objective at Oppenheimer. Its 2012 outlook is improved after CRK's announced acquisition in the Permian Basin earlier this week.

Duke Energy (DUK): Goldman raises its recommendation on the REIT to Buy from Neutral.


Sprint Nextel (S): RBC Capital reduces its rating to Sector Perform from Outperform.

Darden Restaurants: The beleaguered restaurant chain is taken to Hold from Buy at Argus after yesterday's tumble.

Peabody Energy (BTU): Goldman cuts the coal company to Neutral from Buy.

Veolia Environnement (VE): The French firm is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Carrefour SA (CRRFY): The Royal Bank of Scotland takes shares to Sell from Hold.

Resolute Energy (REN): REN is reduced to Underperform from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG): The utility gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Bank of Montreal (BMO): Shares are moved to Hold from Buy at Canaccord Genuity.

SuccessFactors (SFSF): Wells Fargo moves the stock to Market Perform from Outperform.

Summit Hotel (INN): KeyBanc Capital cuts INN to Hold from Buy on account of valuation concerns.

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