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Upgrades & Downgrades: Anheuser-Busch Cries Into Its Beer


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

The year, though still young, has already proven profitable for ancient items. On Monday Antiques Roadshow aired an episode appraising a $5,000 find at $1.5 million. Yesterday an analyst upgrade of a Fossil (FOSL) sent their shares 4.30% higher. And on Wall Street, in a welcome change from 2011, something similarly old is stubbornly unable to prevent investors from making money. Europe, in a plot line that is by now wearingly familiar, continues to implode, with its common currency slumping to a 16-month low against the dollar. And yet, the S&P Index (^GSPC), albeit by the skin of its teeth, still notched its third straight gain to start 2012 thanks to stellar data on December private payrolls. Financials fared best, boosted by Deutsche Bank (DB) saying it sees "encouraging signs" for the industry's earnings. (Unfortunately the German giant failed to get its own upbeat memo, and slid 6.21%). This month, named after the two-faced god Janus, has returned Bank of America (BAC) shareholders many of their recently misplaced coins. The financial firm, which won't want to look back on a year it was the dog of the Dow (^DJI), enjoyed a worst-shall-be-first turnaround and increased 8.61% to pace all S&P 500 advancers. It would likely be up a creek without Merrill Lynch; meanwhile Zumiez Inc (ZUMZ), headquartered at 6300 Merrill Creek Parkway in Everett, Washington surged 17.55% in the same session.

Elsewhere (ACOM), which discovered that Barack Obama and Warren Buffett are related (although we already suspected as much, based on the president's pro-business policies) jumped 20.11%, even if one researcher has already disowned it this morning. TiVo Inc (TIVO) added a further 4.38% to Wednesday's 10% gain and continued to turn back time to its 2004 heyday of the "wardrobe malfunction." American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), which tumbled 10.82%, knows all about those. Barnes & Noble (BKS) slid 17.05% but the good news is that as a country we are continuing to promote in our children the joys of reading. And with all due respect to both Paul Simon and Joe DiMaggio, where have you gone Afghan Girl? A fallen icon turns its lonely fisheye lens to you. The company behind Kodachrome, whose film took that indelible image of a refugee with haunting green eyes and a tattered red scarf, continued its inexorable journey from green to red by falling a further 10.64%.


Freight services: Saying, "We feel potential upside momentum outweighs downside risk," Wells Fargo has a fresh Outperform on FedEx (FDX). It is less bullish on rival United Parcel Service (UPS), picking it up at a Market Perform.

Corning (GLW): Shares are initiated with a Hold at KeyBanc Capital, which would become more bullish should the firm begin deploying its anticipated $2 billion per year in free cash flow.

Bunge (BG): Piper Jaffray picks up the stock at a Neutral.

F5 Networks (FFIV): Morgan Keegan has a fresh Outperform on FFIV and establishes a $126 price target. It sees upside potential from expansion into areas including security and WAN optimization.

Marvell (MRVL): The tech company is begun with a Buy at Mizuho, which sets it a price objective of $17.

Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT): Wunderlich has a Buy and $25 target on UBNT, a firm it says has achieved unique scale among suppliers of outdoor WiFi equipment.

Zhongpin (HOGS): Oppenheimer has an Outperform and $12 target on the Chinese consumer goods company. Catalysts include its vertically integrated supply chain, brand name, high-quality products and extensive distribution network.

Zynga (ZNGA): The new Internet IPO is assigned a Neutral at Macquarie.


Travelers (TRV): The personal property and casualty insurance company, a key Dow component, is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

TD Ameritrade (AMTD): The discount broker gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Deutsche Bank.

J. C. Penney (JCP): Macquarie juices its JCP recommendation to Outperform from Neutral.

SanDisk (SNDK): Shares are now Buy from Neutral ($57 target) at Sterne Agee, which says much of the negative handset sentiment especially regarding Europe is already in the stock.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN): Jefferies raises its rating to Buy from Hold.

Oil & Gas stocks: Copano Energy (CPNO) and Plains All American Pipeline (PAA) are each moved to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Vodafone PLC (VOD): Shares of the telecom firm are trading higher in London this morning on the back of a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Goldman Sachs, which sees "a potential total return of 55% over the next two years."

Vestas Wind Systems: (VWDRY): The Danish wind turbine maker, whose shares have been badly battered this week, is now Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.


Intel (INTC): The Dow member is moved to Neutral from Buy with a $26 target at Sterne Agee, which says 2012-2014 could see headwinds in its core PC market with competitive pressures and lower average selling prices.

Goldman Sachs (GS): GS gets downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo, which says global growth challenges are offsetting an attractive valuation.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD): The brewer is taken to Hold from Buy at ING Group.

Unilever NV (UN): The consumer products powerhouse is also downgraded to Hold from Buy at ING Group. (ACOM): Morgan Keegan moves yesterday's high flier to Market Perform from Outperform at and trims its target by $3, to $27. To justify a premium multiple, the broker needs to see signs of improving average revenue per user.

Children's Place (PLCE): Goldman gives the retailer a Neutral-from-Buy downgrade.

Coinstar (CSTR): CSTR is cut to Perform from Outperform with a new lower objective of $42 at Morgan Keegan, which believes 2012 estimates are overly optimistic amid DVD window uncertainty.

Tobacco stocks: Philip Morris International (PM) and Altria (MO) are each downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Davenport.

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