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Upgrades & Downgrades: Polo Ralph Lauren Dressed for Success


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

In a week bookended by bull well, you know, sightings - Monday's brief release of downtown's favorite cattle and Sunday's celebration of our ferocious four-legged friends at Madison Square Garden - animal spirits also made a welcome return to Wall Street. Increased economic optimism on this side of the Atlantic sent shares higher, albeit on light volume in four holiday-shortened sessions. The Nasdaq (^IXIC), whose symbolic home in the heart of Times Square just dropped the ball to usher in 2012, did anything but decline and instead rose 2.65% to pace all three major averages in enjoying its best week since October. Europe continues to be a concern but if we have seen this movie before no one told Netflix (NFLX), its increase of 24.5% enough to pace all S&P 500 (^GSPC) advancers. Monsanto (MON) rose 11%, which should please CEO and film star Hugh Grant and AutoNation (AN) nosedived 9.3% for the S&P 500′s poorest performance, which won't be music to the ears of CEO Michael Jackson. A suddenly-hip Microsoft (MSFT) surged 8.3%, good news for software shares even as Orchard Supply Hardware Stores (OSH) tumbled 25% in a single session.

Weight Watchers (WTW) plumped up 21.47% while Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) performed almost as well and McDonald's (MCD) was among several fast food stocks to hit historic highs, New Year's resolutions be damned. The 12 days of Christmas came to an end with New York Yankees sponsor Bank of America (BAC) up over 11% to go back above $6, while a Bronx Bomber with five gold rings called it quits. Obituaries may prove premature for both Research in Motion (RIMM), which rose 5.8% and BlackBerry-addict President Obama, who some say similarly peaked in 2008 but saw unemployment continue its steady decline, to 8.5%. And Eastman Kodak (EK), inventor of the digital camera whose prototype was the size of a toaster, is now toast due to…digital cameras. It slid a further 28% amid bankruptcy speculation. Today in economics, November 2011 consumer credit is out at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Alcoa (AA) unofficially ushers in first quarter reporting season when it releases results after the close. Acuity Brands (AYI), HB Fuller (FUL), Mistras Group (MG), Schnitzer Steel (SCHN), WD-40 Co (WDFC), and Zep Inc (ZEP) are also all expected to announce earnings.


Pandora Media (P): Shares are picked up with a Buy and $13 price objective at Needham, which says it is a way to play three important secular trends in media. Namely, mobile advertising growth, market upside disruption and the bottom in music.

Fusion-io (FIO): Piper Jaffray assigns an Overweight on FIO.

ARM Holdings (ARMH): ARMH is initiated with an Underperform by Sanford Bernstein.


Broadcom (BRCM): Shares are higher before the bell on a Buy-from-Hold boost at Deutsche Bank.

Insurance stocks: Travelers Cos (TRV), a Dow component, is added to the Conviction Buy List at Goldman Sachs, which also gives Buy-from-Neutral boosts to both Hartford Financial (HIG) and MetLife (MET).

Polo Ralph Lauren (RL): Goldman lifts the apparel company to Buy from Neutral and adds it to their Conviction Buy List.

Comcast (CMCSA): The media giant gets moved to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG): Deutsche Bank hoists IHG to Buy from Hold.

OpenTable (OPEN): The restaurant reservations outfit is upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Fossil (FOSL): Shares get a Buy-from-Hold boost at Brean Murray, which establishes a $100 price objective on the retailer amid an increasingly impressive risk/reward environment for investors.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM): AKAM, downgraded elsewhere this morning, is upgraded to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies, which increases its objective to $36 from $21.

Lenovo: The Asian computer firm is now Overweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities, which sees further market share gains in China allied to the potential for operating margin expansion.

Mindray Medical (MR): Citigroup moves the shares to Buy from Neutral.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS): Shares of the Edinburgh-based financial firm are trading higher in London this morning after being raised to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan Cazenove ahead of what is "likely to be the start of a significant multi-year period of restructuring" in the industry.

El Paso Electric (EE): The stock is juiced to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies, which takes its target up by $6.50 to $34.50.


Merck (MRK): Dow member MRK is lower ahead of the open on a Hold from Buy downgrade at Jefferies, which cites valuation issues after a strong recent run and has a new price target of $40.

Costco (COST): The big box retailer sees its recommendation reduced to Underperform from Market Perform by Bernstein, whose concerns include overly optimistic earnings expectations. The target is trimmed by $4, to $76.

Oracle (ORCL): The enterprise software stock is moved to Market Perform from Outperform by BMO Capital.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): The clothing company gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Brean Murray, as holiday same-store-sales results from its teen sector domestic competitors confirmed material margin declines in the space.

Antofagasta plc: The British-based copper miner is cut to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

Southern Copper (SCCO): Deutsche Bank downgrades SCCO to Hold from Buy.

Inhibitex (INHX): Robert W. Baird reduces its recommendation to Neutral from Outperform and takes its target price to $26 from $15.

Insurance stocks: XL Capital (XL), Unum Group (UNM), and Principal Financial (PFG) area all now Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM): AKAM is slashed to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

BlackRock (BLK): Goldman pulls the money manager from its list of Conviction Buys.

VeriSign (VRSN): The tech stock gets lowered to Underperform from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Sunoco (SUN): Oil outfit SUN is now Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

TJX Cos (TJX): The discount retailer is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Thoratec (THOR): THOR is taken to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

Tata Motors (TTM): The Indian auto firm is downgraded to Sell from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

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