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Upgrades & Downgrades: Dr. Pepper in Intensive Care


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

Ah, fourteenth time's always the charm. Stocks surged, the Dow Average ending up by triple-digits on optimism that Europe's latest crisis summit would succeed where 13 previous attempts over the past 21 months were simply unlucky. This, despite yesterday's initial agreement that provided no details until November, nor forced beleaguered banks to raise any additional capital until next June. (Coincidentally, the same month the continent comes together for its quadrennial soccer contest, where the main concern will be to simply avoid having its citizens kill each other over sport; all the best establishing harmony on much more weighty issues like economic life and death.) Still, the S&P 500 Index remains on course for its single best month in exactly two decades. Indeed there were echoes of 1991 everywhere. Biogen Idec (BIIB) jumped 9.40% to hit its highest point since going public that September, back when Pearl Jam was just getting started in rainy Seattle. Panera Bread (PNRA), a June '91 IPO based in similarly inclement St. Louis, gained 15.49% to an all time best. (Word has it Cardinals boss Tony La Russa wanted to buy some shares of the hometown hero during his unexpected downtime but had trouble phoning in the order.)

Boeing (BA), which called Seattle home for over eight decades, surged 6.07% to top the Dow on impressive earnings but another Emerald City outfit had a decidedly grungy look to it, (AMZN) tumbling 12.66% partially on account of expenses associated with its Kindle Fire. Still, better that than having your house on fire, the fate which once befell the CEO of Novartis (NVS), whose 4.23% fall on Tuesday was swiftly followed by a downgrade yesterday. Elsewhere Peoples Bancorp of North Carolina (PEBK) advanced 18.76% to lead all Nasdaq issues; as its penitentiaries are home to both Allen Stanford and Bernie Madoff - still not sleeping with the fishes despite ample amounts of Ambien - such a stellar showing is the very least citizens of that great state deserve. And Corning Inc. (GLW), the company known as Corning Glass Works for most of its illustrious history, ended up 2.99% on a day a hundred-year-old glass ceiling was spectacularly shattered. This morning in economics, consensus calls for a decline in August pending home sales at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Peak earnings period, with 191 of the S&P 500 due to report results this week, rolls inexorably on. Among today's announcements are AstraZeneca (AZN), Banco Santander (STD), Bristol-Myers (BMY), Colgate-Palmolive (CL), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), Procter & Gamble (PG), Raytheon (RTN), and Volkswagen.


Agricultural stocks: Agrium (AGU) is resumed with an Outperform at RBC Capital, which starts Sector Performs on rivals Mosaic (MOS) and Potash (POT).

Prudential Plc (PUK): Britain's PUK is picked up with a Hold at Jefferies.

Itron (ITRI): Jefferies assumes ITRI with a Buy rating and assigns it a price objective of $46.


Cisco Systems (CSCO): The Dow member gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at UBS.

Owens Corning (OC): OC is upgraded to Buy from Hold with a $36 price target at Stifel Nicolaus, which cites an attractive valuation and a return to profitability in insulation.

Hospira (HSP): Shares are boosted to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Acme Packet (APKT): Deutsche Bank adds APKT to its Buy List.

Triangle Petroleum (TPLM): Shares are started with a Hold at KeyBanc Capital.

Voyager Oil & Gas (VOG): VOG is begun with a Buy at brokers C.K. Cooper, which assigns a $4 price objective on the small cap stock. For related content, see U.S. Biofuel Production Not Likely to Dominate World in Next Decade.


Bank of America (BAC): The Dow member is downgraded to Equal weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley. Also read Time to Switch to a Credit Union?

Casual dining stocks: Brinker International (EAT): The fast food firm is now Underperform from Neutral at Sterne Agee, which sets a $20 target price. Sterne also cuts Panera Bread (PNRA) to Neutral from Buy after yesterday's exceptionally strong showing.

Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS): Morgan Stanley downgrades DPS to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Visa (V): The credit card king is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital after earnings. Negatives include increased concerns over rising incentives and a quicker-than-expected slowdown in US debit volumes.

Lockheed Martin (LMT): Suntrust lowers LMT to Neutral from Buy.

AnnTaylor (ANN): The clothing company is pulled from Citigroup's list of Top Picks Live.

MeadWestvaco (MWV): BMO Capital moves the paper and forest products powerhouse by an unusual 180 degrees, to Underperform from Outperform.

Thermo Fisher (TMO): JPMorgan takes TMO to Neutral from Overweight.

Aeroflex (ARX): ARX is now Neutral from Overweight, also at JPMorgan.

Healthspring (HS): HS is cut to Hold from Buy at Jefferies, their shares no longer trading on fundamentals following an acquisition offer from Cigna (CI).

Coventry Health Care (CVH): CVH gets cut to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.

CenterPoint: Macquarie moves the energy outfit to Neutral from Outperform.

CRH Plc. (CRH): Credit Suisse cuts CRH to Neutral from Outperform.

United Bankshares (UBSI): Citing heightened valuation concerns, Stifel Nicolaus reduces its UBSI recommendation to Hold from Buy.

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