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Upgrades & Downgrades: Expect Further Thrills and Spills From BP


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

The trouble with screaming "Show me the money!" is that sometimes your answer comes up empty-handed. So it was yesterday, both for shareholders and the suddenly-bankrupt coiner of that iconic phrase. Markets meandered in listless trading, with the Dow Industrials (^DJI) dropping an inch to snap a two-session winning streak while the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) ended essentially unchanged amid a relative lack of economic news on this side of the Atlantic. (Not so across the pond, where the iPad-loving Prime Minister of Britain proudly reported U.K. retail consumer prices plunged to a 16-month low; perhaps there really is something to the Fed's Apple (AAPL) fights inflation argument after all.) Bank of America (BAC) topped all blue chips again as financials outperformed once more - no wonder bank robbers are ditching corporate casual and dressing up accordingly, they need to look the part to plunder these increasingly profitable institutions. Homebuilders also showed strength, with Lennar (LEN) riding robust revenue to surge some 7.18%. With both supposedly cautious Swedes and stereotypically sober bond gurus knocking down million dollar mansions only to build them back up, the real estate revival really may have legs.

Ho Hos maker Hostess declared bankruptcy, Idaho's own Hecla Mining (HL) tumbled 21.06%, and Urban Outfitters (URBN), whose idea of ho ho ho is a warm gun, imploded 18.63% as the analyst community turned bearish. Athens outfit Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCH), whose products have recently become the Molotov cocktail of choice among all self respecting Greek rioters, slid 3.33%. Seems Starbucks (SBUX), which hit another historic high this week, has co-opted much of that booming business. Funeral home operator Carriage Services (CSV) fell 1.80% even as Sears (SHLD) - up 8.01% to top the S&P 500 - and Eastman Kodak (EK), a 35.83% gainer, temporarily came back from the dead. And Trojan condom maker Church & Dwight (CHD) rebounded from Tuesday's 2.48% tumble to end up. It rose even as Occupy Wall Street - big believers in the barrier method of birth control - just had its barricades removed. This morning in economics, consensus calls for November 2011 business inventories to slow from the previous month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Infosys (INFY), Material Sciences (MASC), Shaw Communications (SJR), and Washington Federal (WFSL) are all due to release results.


Internet stocks: Crédit Agricole covers (AMZN) and eBay Inc (EBAY) with Buys on both, assigning a price objective of $230 on the former.

Financial stocks: UBS has new Neutrals on T. Rowe Price (TROW) and Franklin Resources (BEN) and begins Buys on both BlackRock (BLK) and Invesco (IVZ).

Commercial Metals (CME): Shares are initiated at an Underperform with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Check Point Software (CHKP): FBN Securities has a fresh Outperform on CHKP.

REITs: Imperial Capital resumes Outperform rated coverage and a $26 price target on Apartment Investment and Management (AIV) and establishes an In-Line on AvalonBay Communities (AVB).

Managed care: WellCare Group (WCG) and Molina Healthcare (MOH) are both started at an Equal Weight by Morgan Stanley.

IberiaBank (IBKC): Jefferies has a Hold on the regional financial firm.

Tele Argentina STET (TEO): Morgan Stanley has an Overweight on the Buenos Aires-based communications company.


BP Plc (BP): Shares continue their rehabilitation from the Gulf oil spill, getting a Buy-from-Hold boost at Jefferies.

EMC Corp (EMC): JPMorgan juices the tech firm to Overweight from Neutral.

Urban Outfitters (URBN): The beleaguered clothing company, whose stock imploded 18.63% yesterday, is this morning moved to Neutral from Underperform with Wedbush.

SINA Corp (SINA): The Chinese Internet outfit is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan, whose target is $79.

Cree Inc (CREE): The LED-lighting maker is hoisted to Hold from Sell at Kaufman Brothers, which takes its price target up by $5 to $24. The move comes ahead of its Q2 earnings announcement on Jan 17, for which expectations have been reset.

Genpact (G): Shares are now Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Kimco Realty (KIM): Goldman Sachs raises its recommendation on the REIT to Neutral from Sell.

Pall Corp (PLL): PLL is increased to Outperform from Market Perform with William Blair.

Industrial equipment stocks: Ametek Inc (AME) and Wesco International (WCC) are each upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which sets respective price objectives of $53 and $69 from $47.


ConocoPhillips (COP): Jefferies cuts the oil outfit to Hold from Buy.

British Sky Broadcasting (BSYBY): The media empire is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

France Telecom (FTE): JPMorgan takes FTE to Underweight from Neutral.

Unilever NV (UN): The Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

HSBC Holdings (HBC): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the financial giant to Underperform from Neutral.

Lazard (LAZ): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill, sending shares slumping before the bell.

Lennar (LEN): The homebuilder is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.

Stryker (SYK): SYK is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Canadian National Railway (CNI): TD Newcrest takes the transportation titan to Hold from Buy.

EnCana (ENC): Bank of America-Merrill moves the energy outfit to Underperform from Neutral.

Covidien (COV): The medical device maker is cut to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

SL Green Realty (SLG): Goldman gives the REIT a Sell-from-Neutral ratings reduction.

Packaging Corporation of America (PKG): PKG is downgraded by an unusual 180 degrees, Underweight from Overweight, at JPMorgan.

Williams-Sonoma (WSM): The Pottery Barn owner is now Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

Juniper Networks (JNPR): Shares are downgraded to Hold from Buy at Argus after company management reduced its 4Q11 revenue and earnings guidance.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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