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Upgrades & Downgrades: Scary Times for Monster


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

Iffy earnings out of Pfizer (PFE) allied to uninspiring ISM data saw stocks wander, once again. (Wandering seems to be Wall Street's new way to go, in case you were wondering.) Ahead of the Winter Olympics all three metals on the winner's podium got a workout. McDonald's (MCD) golden arches were boosted by a Goldman upgrade; the "giant vampire squid" may be widely loathed but they can still pick a stock. Long John Silver's owner Yum Brands (YUM) beat the Street, thanks largely to growth in China (where lead was likely added to the menu). And 183 centimeters of bronze by the name of Wandering, nay Walking Man went for an all time art record of $104.3 million at Sotheby's (BID).

Ray LaHood issued a partial recall of his comments on Toyota's (TM) recall while Total Recall star Arnold Schwarzenegger, currently commandeering the country's biggest economic basket case, insulted Iowa by insisting "there's no one screaming like, 'I can't wait to get to Iowa.' That I can guarantee you." And opening his fifth year on the job, Fed head Ben Bernanke was sworn in a second time, a feat Obama achieved after only 24 hours. In economics, expect December factory orders at 10:00 AM Eastern and earnings season continues with announcements out of Allergan (AGN), Avon (AVP), Burger King (BKC), Cigna (CI), Diamond Offshore (DO), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Kellogg (K), MasterCard (MA), Moody's (MCO), Northrop Grumman (NOC), Reynolds American (RAI), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), Sara Lee (SLE), Toyota (TM) and Vodafone (VOD).


Spectra Energy (SE): Morgan Keegan starts Spectra Energy at Outperform.


AOL (AOL): The stock gets a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade at Merriman based on valuation and macro tailwinds in online advertising.

Commodity Stocks: Credit Suisse upgrades both BHP Billiton (BHP) (Outperform from Neutral) and Rio Tinto (RTP) (Neutral from Underperform), with the broker boosting its commodity price assumptions across the board to better reflect recent price strength. See also, The Outlook for Commodities.

Volvo: Safe, steady and Swedish is the way to play Toyota's troubles, according to Normua. The Japanese outfit increases Volvo to Buy from Neutral, believing it's "best placed" to benefit from a gradual European recovery.

Lan Airlines (LFL): Up in the air, Morgan Stanley takes Lan Airlines to Overweight from Underweight.

MetLife (MET): The insurance stock is moved to Outperform from Market Perform (target price now $44 from $41) after its upside earnings surprise.

Visa (V): Both Barclays (Overweight from Equal-weight; $97 target) and Duncan-Williams (Strong Buy from Buy; $105) raise ratings on Visa after its faster than expected acceleration in revenue growth.

BP PLC (BP): HSBC upgrades BP Plc, now Overweight from Neutral.

Posco (PKX): The stock also gets an Overweight-from-Neutral increase at HSBC.

Diebold (DBD): An encouraging strengthening in orders prompts Robert Baird to boost Diebold (Outperform from Neutral) and increase its objective to $34 from $30.

Broadcom (BRCM): Both Brigantine (Buy from Hold) and GC Research (Overweight from Neutral) are upgrading Broadcom.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM): The stock gets increased to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Lexmark (LXK): Lexmark is removed from the Americas Conviction Sell list at Goldman Sachs.

Apple (AAPL): The tech giant is upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at First Global.

Morgan Stanley (MS): Credit Suisse adds Morgan Stanley to its US Focus List, saying the stock should see limited downside from current levels.


Western Union (WU): A little after-the-event perhaps, since yesterday's 8.91% plunge made it the S&P 500's worst performer, but Western Union is taken south by both Goldman Sachs and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. Each lower it to Neutral from Buy.

Monster Worldwide (MWW): Deutsche Bank downgrades Monster Worldwide (Sell from Hold) and takes its target down $1 to $12 after earnings. 2010 represents another transition year for the firm even as its shares are priced for a robust recovery.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS): gets reduced to Neutral from Outperform by BNP Paribas.

Miscellaneous: Goldman removes both BlackRock (BLK) and Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) from its Conviction Buy List.

Education Stocks: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch downgrades Education Management (EDMC) Underperform from Buy; $20 target), Corinthian Colleges (COCO) (Neutral from Buy; $16), and ITT Educational Services(ESI) (Neutral from Buy; $110).

Zions Bancorp (ZION): Keefe Bruyette cuts Zions Bancorp (Underperform from Market Perform) on a belief they may be pressured to repay TARP in the near term following PNC's (PNC) recent capital raise. For related content, see Why the Big Banks Have to Break Up.

Silicon Labs (SLAB): The stock is cut to Outperform from Buy at Calyon Securities.

Airlines: Delta Airlines (DAL) and Continental Airlines (CAL) are each sharply lower ahead of the open after Neutral-from-Overweight cuts at JP Morgan.

Panera Bread (PNRA): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at SunTrust due to valuation.

Verizon (VZ): Credit Suisse hangs up on Verizon, downgrading it to Neutral from Outperform and taking its target to $30 from $32. The broker no longer believes AT&T (T) will lose its iPhone exclusivity in mid-2010.
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