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Upgrades & Downgrades: Urban Outfitters Sent to Siberia


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

Wall Street's week still has a ways to go - and ends ominously on a Friday the 13th - but so far, so good. Shares advanced again, ending at five-month highs amid a start to earnings season from aluminum giant Alcoa (AA) that was strong enough to suggest we can continue to productively kick the can back and forth with Europe for a while yet. (Especially while wearing footwear from designer shoe firm DSW Inc (DSW), which surged 12.83% in its best single session showing since May.) Bank of America (BAC), the strongest Dow (^DJI) stock of this embryonic year, advanced another 5.74% even as it lowered the S&P 500's (^GSPC) leading performer of 2012, Netflix (NFLX) tumbling 2.39% as a result. Surprising, since the financial firm sponsors Manhattan's most famous open-air movie festival and is thus meant to be a film fan. Last year in Bryant Park it underwrote Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Starbucks (SBUX) certainly does, finishing up a further 0.49% in hitting another lifetime high on the day it introduced a lighter roast.

Of course, it was in that very same movie that screen siren Marilyn Monroe assured us diamonds are a girl's best friend but that was then and this is now. With Tiger Woods' former wife having long ago ditched the bling at a gas station - presumably to pay for petroleum, with oil up again on escalating Iranian tensions - it's little wonder Tiffany (TIF) tumbled 10.46%. Beyoncé once advised us guys to put a ring on all the single ladies but times change and the singer is now both happily married and feeling Blue - that the name of her newborn pays homage to the color of Tiffany's iconic gift box only adds to the angst at the upscale retailer. And NYSE Euronext (NYX) gained 4.59% on news its proposed merger with Germany's Deutsche Börse is in trouble. (Just as well - January 10 does not exactly have a happy history when it comes to M&A activity.) Today's financial data includes the Fed beige book, a wrap-up of regional economic conditions released at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Corporate earnings are expected out of Lennar (LEN), 99 Cents Only Stores (NDN), and Supervalu (SVU).


Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE): Shares are covered at Underperform by Mizuho, which establishes a price target of $10. The company is seen as being a key player in the long-term secular trend towards natural gas vehicle adoption. However, concerns include a capital-intensive business model with limited barriers to entry.

Huntington Bancshares (HBAN): The small cap stock is a new at Robert W. Baird, which sets a $6 price objective.

Liquidity Services (LQDT): The Benchmark Company has a Hold and $41 target due to valuation issues.


General Motors (GM): The auto outfit is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray, sending shares higher ahead of the open.

DIRECTV (DTV): Sanford Bernstein boosts the stock to Outperform from Market Perform.

Virgin Media (VMED): VMED is moved to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

AK Steel (AKS): Credit Suisse increases AKS to Outperform from Neutral.

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU): The French telecom firm is boosted to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Accenture (ACN): The consulting company, downgraded elsewhere this morning, is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform by Bernstein.

American Water (AWK): AWK is taken to Buy from Neutral at Ladenburg Thalmann, which also increases its objective to $37 from $32 based on recent favorable rate case developments, improved operating efficiencies, and water consumption changes.

Education stocks: Grand Canyon Education (LOPE) is lifted to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which moves ITT Educational (ESI) to Neutral from Underperform.

Marriott International (MAR): The hotel outfit is hoisted to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Luxottica (LUX): Barclays lifts LUX to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Citrix Systems (CTXS): The tech firm is named a long Research Tactical Idea at Morgan Stanley.

Rockwell Automation (ROK): Shares get a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Goldman, which also adds it to their list of Conviction Buys.

Munich Re (MURGY.PK): The German insurance giant, whose shares trade in America under stock symbol MURGY, is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Owens & Minor (OMI): Goldman gives a Neutral-from-Sell lift to OMI. (CRM): The equity is named a long Research Tactical Idea at Morgan Stanley.


Soft drinks stocks: UBS downgrades both Coca-Cola (KO), in the Dow Average, and rival PepsiCo (PEP), both now Neutral from Buy.

3M Co (MMM): Goldman cuts the Dow component to Sell from Neutral.

Accenture (ACN): ACN gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Unilever (UN): Shares of the Anglo-Dutch consumer products powerhouse, whose brands include Axe, Ben & Jerry's, Lipton, and Vaseline, are lower in London this morning after an Equal Weight-from-Overweight downgrade at Morgan Stanley. Investors are advised to take profits after a strong showing in 2011.

Urban Outfitters (URBN): The stock, off by 18% in today's pre-market trading, is slashed at both Citigroup (by an unusual 180 degrees, to Sell from Buy) and Robert W. Baird (Neutral from Outperform, with the target taken to $28 from $34.) Baird believes that good international growth prospects are outweighed by the potential for a CEO transition to cause internal disruption and delay the emerging turnaround.

Polo Ralph Lauren (RL): The upscale clothing company, whose shares have recently risen to all-time highs, is moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

MasterCard (MA): The credit card company gets moved to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Cablevision (CVC): Citigroup cuts the broadcaster from its Top Picks Live list.

NCR Corp (NCR): The information technology name is no longer on Goldman's list of Conviction Buys.

Boston Properties (BXP): RBC Capital reduces the REIT to Sector Perform from Outperform.

Hyatt Hotels (H): The lodging firm gets lowered to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Lazard (LAZ): Citi lowers LAZ to Neutral from Buy.

NYSE Euronext (NYX): The exchange operator, whose mooted merger with Germany's Deutsche Börse is now in jeopardy, gets cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.

Franklin Resources (BEN): The asset manager is now Neutral from Buy at Citi.

T. Rowe Price (TROW): Ticonderoga takes TROW to Neutral from Buy, their shares now trading at a steep 58% premium to the S&P.

Southwestern Energy (SWN): Robert Baird reduces its rating to Neutral from Outperform with a new lower objective of $39. It sees current 2012 capital expenditure and production guidance as having potential downside risk along with lower cash flows.

Emerson Electric (EMR): The industrial outfit is now Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Philips Electronics (PHG): Shares are slashed to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

Summer Infant (SUMR): The stock is now Neutral from Outperform with Wedbush.

Waste Management (WM): WM is taken down sharply, to Sell from Buy, at Société Générale.

WebMD Health (WBMD): The equity, which imploded 28.53% yesterday, is downgraded this morning by both Morgan Stanley (Underweight from Equal Weight) and Wells Fargo (Market Perform from Outperform.)

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