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Upgrades & Downgrades: High Fives for Palm

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Stocks were mixed in choppy trading, with the S&P 500 suffering its steepest weekly drop since October even as the Nasdaq rose as if it were December 1999. Ahead of the holidays hangover causes and cures both fared well, with Boston Beer (SAM) up an impressive $3.50 on the week and Starbucks (SBUX) finishing Friday at a two-year high. Taking their cue from Billboard magazine's newly anointed album of the decade -- No Strings Attached, the remaining big banks chose to cut the cord on TARP even as several CEO's failed to fly to a White House summit as scheduled. (No such problems for George Clooney whose sign-of-the-times film about firings, Up in the Air, led Golden Globe nominees.)

Gold fell for a third straight week while Crude climbed 5% and a yen for dollars propelled the greenback to a six week high against Japan's currency. As the Copenhagen climate confab concluded, tiger attacks were blamed on the weather and attacks on Tiger continued unabated. No blizzard of economic data this first day of winter but expect earnings out of ConAgra (CAG), Jabil Circuit (JBL), and Walgreen (WAG).

Initiations

Credit Cards: Visa (V), which has risen for five straight sessions, is initiated Overweight at Thomas Weisel with a price objective of $102. MasterCard (MA) is assigned an identical rating ($305 target). See also Visa and MasterCard Deserve Some Credit.

Rockwell Collins (COL): Citigroup starts Rockwell Collins at a Hold.

Biotech: Morgan Stanley begins biotechs Human Genome Sciences (HGSI) (Overweight) and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) (Equal-weight.)

Verigy (VRGY): The stock is initiated with a Neutral and $13 target by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Public Storage (PSA): PSA gets picked up at Outperform ($91 target price) at Credit Suisse, which says it is a "best in class" REIT.

Jo-Ann Stores (JAS): Keybanc Capital assumes coverage of Jo-Ann Stores (Buy; $40 target) as it sees the retailer as an exciting margin and cash flow story.

Energy Stocks: In the energy sector, Morgan Stanley starts Dominion Resources (D), Constellation Energy (CEG), FirstEnergy (FE), and PPL Corp (PPL), all at equal weight.

Upgrades

Palm (PALM): The mobile device maker is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Intel (INTC): The chipmaker is up before the bell after Barclays raised its rating to Overweight from Equal-Weight. The price objective remains at $24. The valuation is described as "intriguing." For more, see Two Ways to Play: Intel Reveals Smaller, More Efficient Chips.

Ag Stocks: Mosaic (MOS), mentioned positively in the new issue of Barron's, gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Goldman Sachs, which takes its target up $4 to $68. Goldman also adds competitor Potash Corp (POT) to its Conviction Buy List.

Seagate Technologies (STX): Robert Baird boosts Seagate Technology to Outperform and increases its objective to $25 from $22 on an expectation IT hardware expenditure will accelerate.

Alcoa (AA): The stock is increased to Overweight from Equal-Weight by Barclays, which sets a target of $22. Improvements are seen in its alumina and downstream businesses.

Sonoco Products (SON): SON is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Argus ($35 target) after the company recently raised its EPS guidance for 2009.

Toy Makers: Mattel (MAT) ($24 target) and Hasbro (HAS) are now Outperform, up from Market Perform, at BMO Capital Markets.

Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS): The sporting goods retailer is increased to Outperform from Neutral at Wedbush Morgan as positive third quarter traffic trends appear to have continued.

Micron (MU): Micron is upped to Outperform from Neutral at Wedbush Morgan. See also Is Micron Confirming Bull Market in Memory Industry?

Downgrades

Nokia (NOK): Nokia is now a Hold at Argus, down from Buy, with the broker believing the company's failure to develop a compelling set of applications for its smart phones could be costly.

Gap Inc (GPS): The retailer is lowered to Hold from Buy at Jesup & Lamont based on disappointing recent channel checks.

Genzyme (GENZ): Morgan Stanley downgrades Genzyme (Underweight from Equal-weight) and lowers its target price to $48 from $54.

Dominion Resources (D): The stock is downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo.

Ameristar Casinos (ASCA): The stock is cut to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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