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Upgrades & Downgrades: What Stock Is Going for a Song? Ask a Dell


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

A red letter day in honor of David Letterman. The check was in the mail for investors yesterday as equities paid an anniversary tribute to a talk show host whose career began, as did the biggest bull market in history, in 1982. Granted, Wednesday's trading would never make a Top Ten List and shares ended well off session highs, but the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) still snapped a four session slump on upbeat factory data from the world's top two manufacturers. (Alas that now means, in descending order, China followed by America.) Apple Inc (AAPL) hit another all time high as it pulled further clear of Exxon Mobil (XOM) as Earth's biggest company by market cap - although that honor is something of a poisoned chalice on Wall Street. Analyst comments of a more upbeat kind sent Blackstone (BX) up 5.25%, providing an ample excuse to party for a septuagenarian CEO who never needs to be told twice anyway. Greece showed us its entrepreneurial streak, albeit on this side of the Atlantic, as pride of Athens and the former Arianna Stasinopoúlou saw AOL Inc (AOL) surge 9.56% a year to the week after she sold her Huffington Post to the Internet outfit for $315 million.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) rose 3.80%, a good day following a dark knight. With the markets coming off their best January since 1997, the month of Bill Clinton's second inauguration, IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) advanced 6.29% to reach a peak last seen in January 1993, the month of his first. Particularly pleasing for his daughter, who is on the board of the owner and found love in the arms of a Goldman Sachs (GS) investment banker. Corinthian Colleges (COCO) gained 36.30% to top the Russell 2000 Index on a day the stay-in-school message got a little muddled. And (AMZN) slumped 7.70% in posting the S&P's poorest performance. A stock left feeling low despite the firm's best efforts to get our students high. This morning in economics, Fed head Ben Bernanke begins his testimony to the House Budget Committee at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We're just past the halfway point for corporate earnings announcements, with today's quarterly results due to include AstraZeneca (AZN), Blackstone (BX), Cardinal Health (CAH), Deutsche Bank (DB), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Kellogg (K), Merck (MRK), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), Sony (SNE), Unilever (UN), and Viacom (VIA).


AT&T Inc (T): The Dow (^DJI) component is covered with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

TiVo Inc (TIVO): TIVO is initiated with an Outperform and $14 price target at Barrington Research.

Broadcom (BRCM): Canaccord Genuity begins BRCM at a Buy and assigns a price objective of $45.

Calpine (CPN): The utility is a fresh Overweight at JP Morgan.

Men's Wearhouse (MW): Shares are started with a Buy and $42 target price at Sterne Agee.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM): Capstone rolls out Buy rated coverage on AKAM.

Sirius XM Radio (SIRI): Macquarie has an Outperform on Howard Stern's employer.

Simon Properties (SPG) The REIT is resumed at an Outperform by Imperial Capital, which sets a $150 objective on a firm it says offers predictable earnings growth, a very strong balance sheet and ample access to capital.


Dell Inc (DELL): The computer maker, already trading at a 52-week peak, is upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at JPMorgan. Shares are sharply higher ahead of the open as a result.

Deutsche Boerse AG: The exchange operator, downgraded elsewhere this morning after the collapse of its merger with NYSE Euronext (NYX), is now Neutral from Underweight with JP Morgan.

Franklin Resources (BEN): JP Morgan boosts BEN to Neutral from Underweight.

Nomura Holdings (NMR): The Japanese financial firm is taken substantially higher, to Buy from Underperform at Jefferies.

Infineon: The German tech giant gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Jefferies.

Imperial Tobacco: Shares are raised to Neutral from Reduce at Nomura.

Radware (RDWR): RBC Capital increases its rating to Outperform from Sector Perform.

UniSource Energy (UNS): The electric utility is juiced to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.


Northrop Grumman (DOC): The aerospace and defense outfit gets downgraded to Underperform from Neutral by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, sending shares lower before the bell.

Steel stocks: AK Steel (AKS) is now Underperform from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which lowers Steel Dynamics (STLD) to Neutral from Buy.

Exchange operators: As mentioned earlier, Deutsche Boerse AG gets downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital, which gives an identical ratings reduction to proposed partner NYSE Euronext (NYX).

NASDAQ OMX Group (NDAQ): Staying in the space, NDAQ is reduced to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James.

JDS Uniphase (JDSU): UBS takes the tech stock to Neutral from Buy.

Autoliv (ALV): Citigroup slashes the Swedish auto parts outfit all the way to Sell from Buy.

ANN Inc (ANN): The women's clothing company formerly known as AnnTaylor is now Underweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

Edwards Lifesciences (EW): EW is cut to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Luxottica (LUX): UBS lowers the stock to Neutral from Buy.

Sykes Enterprises (SYKE): Seeing limited near-term upside broker Robert W. Baird reduces its rating to Neutral from Outperform with a $20 target.

Nutrisystem (NTRI): The diet darling slims down to Neutral from Outperform with Wedbush.

Norsk Hydro The Norwegian oil giant, whose shares trade here under ticker symbol NHYDY, is trading lower in Europe this morning after Citi cut it to Sell amid soft downstream operations.

Vanguard Health Systems (VHS): VHS is moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.
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