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Upgrades & Downgrades: News Corp Attracts Favorable Headlines for a Change


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

You know it's a dire day when the National Bank of Greece (NBG) far outperforms major averages. The stock started yesterday at $2.01 a share and ended at $2.01 a share, nothing stellar to be sure but when Dow Industrials (^DJI)‏ were dropping by triple-digits and the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) went negative for the year, it's nothing to sneeze at, either. Indices closed near session lows as worrying about Europe once again became the default option. Exactly a year to the day after Mongolia, rich in rare earth metals, was named the best performing equity market on earth, rare earth harvester Molycorp (MCP) fell 14.14% to post the Russell 1000's poorest performance. Tough times then for the seller of cerium, lanthanum, and praseodymium - these days, such minerals, not to mention aluminum, selenium, and rhenium, are going for, well, a song. The New York Times (NYT) slipped 1.16% after sending an email to 8.6 million people that was instead intended for only 300. Far from ideal but at least it issued a correction within three hours - it took the 'newspaper of record' half a century to admit Newton was right, and then only after the moon landing.

Elsewhere oil fell for the first session in seven, investors opting to see the glass as half full after Iran said closing the Straits of Hormuz is "easier than drinking a glass of water." Such tough talk? Bring it on, said Consolidated Water (CWCO), which ended up 8.28%. There's no snow on either side of the Atlantic Ocean at the moment but Arctic Cat (ACAT) evidently never got the memo, the snowmobile maker making fat cats of its shareholders with a 20.75% surge. Life does indeed begin at 40 as an analyst upgrade helped Starbucks (SBUX), founded in 1971, hit the highest level in its history. This week the coffee king clearly is number one with a bullet. And alas this Christmas season there are no longer nine drummers drumming. Ironically, in a year when the musical instrument has become increasingly popular, yesterday one of New York's most iconic drum shops shut its doors. No corporate earnings of note this morning, but economists expect increases in the final two data points of 2011, December's Chicago Purchasing Managers Index at 9:45 a.m. Eastern and November pending home sales 15 minutes later.


LinkedIn (LNKD): The social networking stock is begun with a Buy rating and $86 price objective at brokers Collins Stewart, which notes it has both significant pricing power and the potential to expand into adjacent markets like temporary staffing. For related content, see Facebook Financials Leaked: Could They Hurt the Zynga IPO?

Pandora Media (P): Collins Stewart picks up the recent IPO at a Neutral - $13 target - citing profitability concerns and a competitive landscape.

TripAdvisor (TRIP): Brokerage Raymond James rolls out Market Perform rated coverage.

Active Network (ACTV): ACTV gets assigned a Buy at ThinkEquity.

Brookdale Senior Living (BKD): JMP Securities launches Outperform rated coverage on BKD.

DexCom Inc (DXCM): The California medical instrument company is begun with a Buy at Wunderlich, which sets it a $12 target price. While shares have been adversely impacted by several FDA-related delays in the approval process for the company's next-generation CGM device, the broker believes risks of further such setbacks are minimal. Additionally, DXCM would appear to be a logical acquisition target for one of the major diabetes players.

First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG): The Buffalo-based savings and loan outfit is initiated with Buy at Jefferies.

Mellanox Technologies (MLNX): The semiconductor stock is a new Hold with Wunderlich, which establishes a price objective of $36. Over the long term, MLNX should benefit from virtualization causing server and storage devices to operate at greater capacity and generate increasing amounts of data.

Mattress Firm (MFRM): MFRM, assigned several bullish Buys yesterday, is this morning rolled out with an Outperform rating at brokerage firm William Blair.


News Corp (NWSA): Rupert Murdoch's media empire, which won't be sad to see the back of 2011, is this morning taken up to Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital Markets.

Hollysys Automation Technologies (HOLI): The Beijing-based industrial equipment outfit gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Roth Capital.


United Technologies (UTX): The Dow component is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Argus. Concerns include increased commodity prices and other costs, which are likely to restrain earnings over the next several quarters. As such, flat or lower revenue is expected at two of their five divisions (Sikorsky and Climate Control & Security).

Edenor SA (EDN): Raymond James reduces its recommendation on the Buenos Aires-based electric utility to Market Perform from Outperform.

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