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Upgrades & Downgrades: Surprise Inside for Intel


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

As America prepares to tuck into turkeys, Byrd became our longest serving lawmaker, Birds Eye is being bought by Blackstone (BX) and yesterday's equity action was one for the birds. With housing taking a hosing, stocks slipped slightly as investors opted to sit on the sidelines, evidently in a La-Z-Boy (LZB) (+28.69% on impressive earnings). On an otherwise down Dow day, Bank of America's (BAC) 3.68% gain was good for the index's biggest increase, doubtless delighting its ex-director and largest individual shareholder Meredith Spangler. (If not Meredith Whitney, who renewed her bearish stance earlier in the week.) Gold recorded its eighth record of the month; if only the Silverdome offered a comparable bang for the buck.

A busy day in economic announcements began at 8:30 AM Eastern with weekly initial unemployment claims coming in at 505,000, unchanged from the newly revised prior figure. At 10:00 AM we'll see separate reports on October Leading Indicators and the Philly Fed for November. This morning Sears (SHLD) beat the Street, although upon reflection it's unsurprising the company came up trumps since the Trumps were recently spotted shopping at its Kmart division. (A curiously cheap choice of venue for newlywed multimillionaires on a buying binge, one cynics may say owes something to the store being An Apprentice sponsor.) A bunch of others reporting results include Dell (DELL), Dress Barn (DBRN), FootLocker (FL), Gap (GPS), and Intuit (INTU).


Healthcare: Stifel Nicolaus starts Express Scripts (ESRX) and Medco Health Solutions (MHS) with Holds. For the former, its NextRx acquisition could entail unforeseen integration issues while Medco shares are seen as approaching fair value.

Real Estate: Real estate stocks Brandywine Realty (BDN) (Outperform; $11.50 target price), Douglas Emmett (DEI) (Outperform; $15), Boston Properties (BXP) (Market Perform), SL Green (SLG) (Market Perform) and Kilroy Realty (KRC) (Underperform) are initiated at JPM Securities.

Lear Corp. (LEA-WI): Credit Suisse starts Lear Corp at an Outperform.

Healthcare: UBS picks up coverage of AmerisourceBergen (ABC), Cardinal Health (CAH), CVS Caremark (CVS), and McKesson (MCK) with Buys on each.


Real Estate: RBC Capital raises its rating on REITs Mid-America Apartment Communities (MAA) and AvalonBay (AVB) (each to Outperform from Sector Perform).

GSI Commerce (GSIC): Morgan Stanley takes GSI Commerce to Overweight from Equal Weight with a price objective of $26.

Ensco International (ESV) is upgraded (Buy from Neutral) at MKM Partners, which takes its target up to $56 from $45, as its valuation is lower than those of the deepwater drillers.

XL Capital (XL): Sanford Bernstein boosts XL Capital to Outperform from Market Perform.

Solarfun Power (SOLF): The solar energy company is up before the bell after its Outperform-from-Perform upgrade at Oppenheimer (price objective of $10) as turnaround efforts are proving productive. For more on this sector, see Shining a Light on SunPower's Books.

CNA Financial (CNA): CNA (Buy from Neutral) is among the insurers upgraded by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, which keeps its target at $27.


Semiconductors: Bank of America/Merill Lynch's downgrade of semiconductor stocks on signs of a supply chain inventory "overshoot" sees Intel (INTC) and Texas Instruments (TXN) taken to Neutral from Buy, along with Marvell Technology (MRVL) and LSI Corp. (LSI). Cut to Underperform from Neutral are Microchip Technology (MU), Maxim Integrated (MXIM), National Semiconductor (NSM), and Power Integrations (POWI). For more, see Inventory in Semiconductors Looking Lean and Wafer Fab Equipment Dragging Down Semiconductor Investors.

Insurance: Marsh & McLennan (MMC) (Underperform from Neutral; $25 target), Progressive (PGR) (Underperform from Neutral) and Aon (AOC) (Neutral from Buy; $45 tgt) are all lowered at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Hot Topic (HOTT): Piper Jaffray pours cold water on Hot Topic, reducing the retailer to Underweight from Neutral after yesterday's weak earnings guidance.

Real Estate: RBC Capital cuts Camden Property (CPT) and Essex Property (ESS) to Sector Perform from Outperform.

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