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Upgrades & Downgrades: JPMorgan Chase Runs for Cover


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

This is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day but markets always anticipate, and after a bubble that took the S&P (^GSPC) up 21% from its October 3, 2011 low by last Wednesday, the benchmark index saw much of its air go pop late last week, ending up all of 0.07% after GDP disappointed. (That's GDP as in Gross Domestic Product, which rose a relatively paltry 2.8% for the fourth quarter. Not to be confused with GDP, the symbol for Goodrich Petroleum Corporation, a 19.3% gainer.) Shares just about eked out a fourth straight weekly advance as Ben Bernanke, who struck gold at the Screen Actors Guild, pledged to keep interest rates at exceptionally low levels through at least late 2014. His boss, whose wife continues her anti-obesity campaign on behalf of America's kids, announced an all out attack on high school dropouts at the State of the Union speech, so a penny for the First Couple's thoughts when fast food firm Wendy's (WEN), founded by a high school dropout, brings today's trading to a close. Elsewhere Apple Inc (AAPL), co founded by an icon who didn't complete college, rose 6.4% to a new high after announcing earnings of $13.1 billion. Newell Rubbermaid (NWL), maker of Sharpie pens, surged 7.97% on Friday but no one was asking Signature Bank (SBNY) for an autograph in a week it slid 6.3%.

The FOMC called our economy "modest", a word which was not applied to Newt Gingrich as he participated in debates number 18 and 19 of the Republican nominating process. Surely that is altogether too much hot air, so how nice it was to see a Trappist monk traipsing through Davos, where money normally talks mighty loudly. Based on this photo, it appears that attendees at the wintry Swiss resort opted to watch Diamonds instead of ski them, a pity as snowmobile maker Arctic Cat (ACAT) jumped 32.3%. In snowy Sweden ABBA is back after a long hiatus but it was more Waterloo than Money Money Money for compatriot Hennes & Mauritz, Europe's second largest clothing company tumbling after posting poor results. Apparently its Dragon Tattoo slasher collection failed to sell well at a firm which had no hesitation about slashing its inventory in more prosperous times. Peak week for fourth quarter earnings has passed but it's still a frenetic day for corporate announcements with Gannett (GCI), Graco Inc (GGG), McKesson (MCK), Olin Corp (OLN), Plum Creek Timber (PCL), Rent-A-Center (RCII), Triumph Group (TGI), Wendy's, and Wolverine Worldwide (WWW) all due to report results.


Acme Packet (APKT): Morgan Stanley starts Equal Weight research on APKT.

Spirit Airlines (SAVE): SAVE is begun with a Buy at Deutsche Bank.


Microsoft (MSFT): The Dow (^DJI) member is moved to Overweight from Neutral at Atlantic Equities.

Financials: Morgan Stanley (MS) gets added to the Conviction Buy list at Goldman Sachs, which also gives Citigroup (C) a Buy-from-Neutral boost.

Auto parts/dealers: Goldman gives AutoZone (AZO) a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade and boosts KAR Auction Services (KAR) to Buy from Neutral.

Advance Auto Parts (AAP): Staying in the sector, AAP is now Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Albemarle (ALB): The specialty chemicals outfit is added to Citigroup's Top Picks Live list after its fourth quarter earnings came in ahead of consensus estimates. The target price remains $74.

Boston Private Financial Holdings (BPFH): Shares get an Outperform-from-Market Perform increase by BMO Capital.

Motorola Solutions (MSI): Argus increases the telecom stock to Buy from Hold with a $55 target, citing a more attractive valuation, solid fundamentals, and rising contributions from services business.

LG Display (LPL): Nomura lifts LPL to Buy From Neutral.

Progress Software (PRGS): The tech firm is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch raises its recommendation to Buy from Neutral.

Tenneco (TEN): TEN is taken to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Zimmer Holdings (ZMH): Piper Jaffray moves the medical device maker to Overweight from Neutral.


Financials: Goldman downgrades two key Dow components today. Bank of America (BAC) is now Neutral from Buy and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) gets pulled from their list of Conviction Buys.

Procter & Gamble (PG): The consumer products powerhouse, also in the Blue Chip index, is now Neutral from Buy at UBS and Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital.

Time Warner (TWX): Barclays takes TWX to Equal Weight from Overweight.

Kellogg (K): The cereal stock is cut to Neutral from Overweight at JP Morgan, which also takes its price objective down by $14 to $62 as earnings are likely to disappoint over the next two years.

Whole Foods (WFM): The gourmet foodie firm is removed from the Conviction Buy List at Goldman

Arkansas Best (ABFS): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the stock to Neutral from Buy.

AK Steel (AKS): The commodity company is cut to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Methode Electronics (MEI): Robert W. Baird moves MEI to Neutral from Outperform with a $9 objective. Downside risks remain amid recent earnings volatility, and near-term revenue is likely to be pressured by weakening European demand.

Columbia Banking System (COLB): COLB gets taken to Hold from Buy with a $22 target at Wunderlich as the current valuation has become somewhat stretched.

CF Industries (DF): Dahlman Rose downgrades the chemicals company to CF to Hold from Buy, leaving intact its price objective of $180. Record corn planting and a strong harvest is seen pressuring corn pricing and ultimately nitrogen margins.

DR Horton (DHI): The home-builder is moved to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.

Praxair (PX): PX is pulled from Citi's Top Picks Live list.

HollyFrontier (HFC): Citi lowers the oil and gas outfit to Neutral from Buy.

Inergy: Shares are reduced to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Monster Beverage (MNST): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Suntrust.

Norfolk Southern (NSC): Atlantic Equities reduces its recommendation on the railroad to Neutral from Overweight.

Oasis Petroleum (OAS): The oil outfit gets lowered to Neutral from Buy at Suntrust.

Omnicom (OMC): BMO Capital cuts the advertising giant to Market Perform from Outperform, sending shares lower in light trading ahead of the open.

Provident Financial (PFS): Janney Montgomery Scott slashes PFS to Neutral from Buy.

Staples (SPLS): The specialty retailer is reduced to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.
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