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Upgrades & Downgrades: This Super Bowl Week, Analyst Not Going to Disney World

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

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If, following in the fabled footsteps of Ferris Bueller, investors opted to take the Day Off they ultimately didn't miss much, although an eagle-eyed economics teacher likely took note of all those who played hookey. Indices ended essentially unchanged, posting marginal declines on yet more anemic volume. Granted, this was enough to take the S&P 500 (^GSPC) down for a third straight session but the Dow (^DJI) rallied considerably off a mid-morning trough that saw it shed 131 points amid ongoing European angst. Specifically Greece, which really needs nothing less than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, was met with a mere peck on the cheek from the leaders of Britain and Germany at a summit in Brussels. Perhaps just as well since neither nation is on anyone's short list of the world's greatest lovers. On this side of the Atlantic personal income rose more than expected in December, yet our populace opted to save rather than spend. Clearly taking their austere cue from New York's billionaire mayor, who rides the subway and has just placed an order for cutting edge… typewriters. Alas others aren't as frugal, $1.2 billion getting 'vaporized' at MF Global (MFGLQ.PK) - itself chump change compared with the $2 billion that just went walkabout in Iraq. Perhaps all absentminded parties should check down the back of the sofa, especially with Italian love-seat maker Natuzzi (NTZ) ending up 2.03% on an otherwise humdrum session. Friendfinder (FFN), publisher of Penthouse, advanced 19.10% and Nabors Industries (NBR) rose 3.51% to top the S&P for the day. Netflix (NFLX) holds that honor for 2012 and gained a further 1.32%, presumably on sleeper sales of Your Friends And Neighbors.

Auto-repair outfit Pep Boys (PBY) surged 23.59% but if you want somewhere to park that cash, better ask a girl. Gannett (GCI), the operator of Captivate Network which delivers news into office elevators, slid 6.90% in posting the S&P 500′s poorest performance - please say this unfortunate duo owned put options. Staples (SPLS) fell 4.87% as Goldman Sachs (GS) uttered the most unforgivable four-letter word on Wall Street: "Sell". Considering how they helped Mitt Romney's Bain Capital bring the company public, the worm has certainly turned. The 'vampire squid' downgrading Bank of America (BAC) sent their shares slumping 3.02% in a torrid tape for financials. Paula Deen, a bank teller for twenty years, was wise to get out of that industry. We were all of course simply shocked, shocked when the chef whose menu includes deep fried Twinkies got Type 2 diabetes but she's likely long shares of Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN), which jumped 17.46% after its treatment for the blood sugar disorder got the green light from the FDA. And Big Apple-based New York & Co (NWY) tumbled 12.42%. If you gottta problem with that, well you will soon be told exactly where to go. Today in economics, analysts expect increases in January's Chicago Purchasing Managers Index at 9:45 a.m. Eastern and the Conference Board's consumer sentiment survey at 10:00 a.m. The pace of earnings announcements picks up with Amazon.com (AMZN), Banco Santander (STD), British Sky Broadcasting, Eli Lilly (LLY), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Honda Motor (HMC), Mattel (MAT), Pfizer (PFE), and United Parcel Service (UPS) all due to report results.


Initiations:

BB&T Corp (BBT): The regional bank is begun with a Buy at Wunderlich, which sets a $34 target price on a firm it says is perfectly positioned to grow profitably both organically and via opportunistic acquisitions.

Boston Properties (BXP): Imperial Capital resumes the REIT at an In-Line, assigning a price objective of $103. Issues include relatively tepid tenant demand in key markets including New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston, allied to a premium valuation.

Theravance (THRX): The biotech is started with an Underweight at Morgan Stanley.

Tesla Motors (TSLA): Jefferies has a new Buy on TSLA.

Media & Entertainment: Time Warner (TWX) and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp(NWSA) are each assigned Outperforms with Wells Fargo. The brokerage is less bullish on Viacom (VIA.B) and Dow member Walt Disney (DIS), starting Market Performs on both.

Groupon (GRPN): GRPN gets a Market Perform initiation at Raymond James.

Williams-Sonoma (WSM): Jefferies picks up the Pottery Barn owner at a Buy.

Veeco Instruments (VECO): The tech stock is a new Neutral at BNP Paribas.

Sohu.com (SOHU): ThinkEquity has a Hold on the Chinese Internet search engine.

Zillow Inc (Z): The online real estate outfit, a recent IPO, is begun with a Buy and $35 objective at Benchmark, which projects robust 2012 total revenue growth of 56% year-over-year, with EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) gaining 75%.


Upgrades:

Nike (NKE): NKE is now Buy from Hold at Argus, which sets a $118 target. Positives include a globally recognized brand, innovative products, economies of scale, and rapid emerging market growth.

Aon Corp (AON): The Illinois-based insurer is now Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse.

CF Industries (CF): Goldman upgrades the fertilizer firm to Buy from Neutral at Goldman and also adds it to their Conviction Buy list.

CEMEX S.A. (CX): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the Mexican cement giant to Buy from Neutral.

European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company: Staying abroad, the continental conglomerate - better know as simply EADS - gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at UBS.

France Telecom (FTE): Jefferies takes FTE to Buy from Hold.

Veolia Environnement (VE): The French firm is upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley, sending shares sharply higher ahead of the opening bell.

Under Armour (UA): Needham hoists the athletic apparel retailer to Buy from Hold with an objective of $86 after fourth quarter results beat Street estimates.

Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS): DKS is added to the Focus List of favored stocks JP Morgan.


Downgrades:

Barclays PLC (BCS): The British bank is downgraded to Add from Buy at WestLB.

Carnival (CCL): Barclays itself takes the currently storm-tossed cruise operator to Equal Weight from Overweight.

Chemical companies: Goldman gives a Neutral-from-Buy ratings reduction to Potash (POT) and takes rival Intrepid Potash (IPI) to Sell from Neutral.

Exchange operators: ISI Group gives Hold-from-Buy cuts to both NYSE Euronext (NYX) and CME Group (CME).

RadioShack (RSH): The stock, tumbling before the bell, is now Neutral from Buy at Janney Montgomery Scott and taken all the way to Underperform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Cloud Peak Energy (CLD): Morgan Stanley cuts CLD to Equal Weight from Overweight.

Magna (MGA): MGA gets moved to Neutral from Overweight with JPMorgan.

Pep Boys (PBY): Shares are reduced to Hold from Buy with a $15 target at The Benchmark Company, their shares no longer trading on fundamentals following yesterday's private-equity purchase proposal.

Philips Electronics (PHG): Deutsche Bank downgrades the Dutch firm to Hold from Buy.

Plum Creek Timber (PCL): Shares are slashed to Sell from Neutral at UBS after yesterday's earnings announcement.

TCF Financial (TCB): Shares are taken to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Zurich Financial: The Swiss financial giant, whose shares trade here under ticker symbol ZFSVY, is now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.
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