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Upgrades & Downgrades: Brinker Looks Appetizing

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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There will be blood all right and not just in oil, which suffered a steep drop to fall for the first day in four. As Twilight tweens screamed to see another gory story at the box office, S&P 500 equities endured their worst bloodbath of the month. This after the Big Board's opening bell was rung by big wigs at a Beijing based blood bank. Suffice to say its shares slid, in common with myriad other banks after more mortgage-backed pessimism from Meredith.

Meanwhile analyst advice against bottom fishing for chips caused semis to slide. See also Inventory in Semiconductors Looking Lean and Wafer Fab Equipment Dragging Down Semiconductor Investors. A stronger greenback also served to set stocks back -- as a New York resident learned the hard way this week, better beware when bucks attack. It's all quiet in economics today but already out with earnings this morning are DR Horton (DHI), JM Smucker (SMJ), and Ann Taylor (ANN), whose adjusted EPS of $0.20 was almost triple what the Street was looking for. Can an ad campaign twinning the company with those two Taylors be far behind?

Initiations

Semiconductors: After yesterday's steep sell off in semiconductors, BMO Capital sees opportunities in Intel (INTC), Texas Instruments (TXN), Marvell Technology (MRVL), and Broadcom (BRCM), all initiated at Outperform. Market Performs are assigned to Xilinx (XLNX), NVIDIA (NVDA), Maxim Integrated Products (MXIM), Linear Technology (LLTC), Advanced Micro (AMD), Altera (ALTR), and Analog Devices (ADI).

Brinker International (EAT): The restaurant stock is begun at a Buy ($17 target) by Jefferies, the broker believing that a value offering will ensure stabilization with the Chili's chain.

Lan Airlines S.A. (LFL): Airlines across America may have been grounded yesterday but Chile plane play Lan Airlines S.A. could take off today after an Overweight initiation at JP Morgan.

AGCO Corp (AGCO): Barclays Capital begins AGCO Corp at Equal Weight.

Exco Resources (XCO): The stock is assumed with Buy and $22 price target at Wunderlich, which cites its exceptional infrastructure and upstream assets.

Upgrades

Lazard (LAZ): Pali Research lifts Lazard to Buy from Neutral.

Suntech Power (STP): The solar stock is taken to Hold from Sell at Soleil, with a price objective of $13.50 after its better than expected earnings. See also Shining a Light on SunPower's Books.

Building Materials: UBS moves both Martin Marietta (MLM) and Vulcan Materials (VMC) to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Cyberonics (CYBX): The stock sees an Overweight-from-Neutral upgrade at Piper Jaffray, which establishes an objective of $20.

Aflac (AFL): The Aflac duck is crowing as shares are up before the bell on an Overweight-from-Equal Weight upgrade at Morgan Stanley.

Hess Corp. (HES): Morgan Stanley also boosts Hess Corp to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Dillard's (DDS): Deutsche Bank increases Dillard's to Buy from Hold and raises its target price to $28 from $13.50, after results that exceeded expectations on solid SG&A improvement.

Downgrades

Peabody Energy (BTU): Goldman Sachs removes Peabody Energy from its Americas Conviction List, though the Buy rating remains intact and its target is taken to $56 from $50.

CSX Corp (CSX): The stock is lowered (Hold from Buy) by Stifel Nicolaus due to valuation.

Financial Planners: Principal Financial (PFG) and Brink's Corp. (BCO) are each now Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Fred's (FRED): JP Morgan reduces its Fred's rating to Underweight from Neutral and clips the target by $4 to $8.

New Gold (NGD): The stock gets an Underperform from Sector Perform cut at Scotia Capital.

VeriSign (VRSN): The stock is now Neutral from Outperform at Wedbush Morgan.

Rio Tinto (RTP): The miner gets taken to Underperform from Neutral by Credit Suisse, which says shares are now fully valued.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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