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Upgrades & Downgrades: Analyst Picks Up Phone Stocks


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

Poor Samoa. Its decision to make December 30 disappear means missing out on all the fun of finding out whether the S&P 500 (^GSPC) finishes positive or negative for the year. The country's time-shifting move looks especially odd in a week that has already showed us what a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, the benchmark equity index turned red for the past 12 months, only to reverse course and go green again for 2011 on Thursday - albeit by all of five points - bolstered by bullish data on continuing unemployment claims and November pending home sales. Standout stocks included Diamond Foods (DMND), the seller of roasted, glazed and flavored nuts based in San Francisco (where they know all about crazies) surging some 7.18% on speculation that David Einhorn took a stake. It all remained in the realm of rumor, with both the purported protagonist and company declining to comment, and as they say "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a merry Christmas." Speaking of nuts, Kim Jong-il once hit 11 holes-in-one the very first time he stepped on the links. Strangely, the passing of such an icon of the sport left investors in Golfsmith International (GOLF) surprisingly sanguine, judging by its 10.48% increase. The North Korean dictator's ostentatious glass casket in a country of grinding poverty was also the kiss of death for funeral home operator StoneMor Partners (STON), which fell 5.80% on an otherwise up day.

Fellow voice of reason Hugo Chavez now claims the United States is giving Latin American leaders' cancer. Presumably, then, it was a devious free market plot that sent Cell Therapeutics (CTIC) and Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM), both of which take aim at the Emperor of all Maladies, up a respective 10.89% and 9.09%. With performances like that, one can safely say both stocks went to Pluto - Mars is, alas, out of the question, since of course capitalism ended life on that planet. And an analyst upgrade sent stock in News Corp (NWSA) 2.41% higher and enabled Mr. Murdoch's annus horribilis to end on an upbeat note. Whatever happens to the media mogul's son, his Sun newspaper will forever have its fingers on the pulse of what ails Middle England (and specifically the middle fingers, as seen in this iconic and extremely prescient November 1990 headline telling then-European Commission President Jacques Delors where to go). That same month saw the longest serving and most powerful peacetime prime minister of the twentieth century, born a humble greengrocer's daughter, finally call it quits. Today a new movie is out about this remarkable iron willed woman, one who accurately predicted as long ago as 2002, back when the smart set begged to differ, that "The European single currency is bound to fail" - it slumped to a new low for the year just in time for today's tenth anniversary wake - and wisely warned the west to "save for a rainy day." Rainy day? After Maggie, the deluge.


Telecom Services: Cincinnati Bell (CBB), Frontier Communications (FTR), and Windstream (WIN) are all new Neutrals at Piper Jaffray.

PLX Technology Inc (PLXT): ThinkEquity picks up PLXT with a Buy recommendation and assigns a $4 price objective on the small cap semiconductor stock.


Nothing of note as of now.


Forest Labs (FRX): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch maintains its overall rating on the pharmaceutical firm, but lowers its price target to $40 from $45.

Jarden Corp (JAH): The housewares and accessories company sees its 2011 and 2012 earnings estimates reduced at Oppenheimer, although the overall recommendation remains intact. The EPS cut is due to potential effect of a lack of snow and warmer temperatures across much of the U.S., impacting their winter-related categories.

Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK): The financial outfit gets downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by a boutique research firm.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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