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Upgrades & Downgrades: Bulls Eye On Target


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

On the eve of the Oscars, the debt clock just struck Midnight in Paris as Europe's financial time bomb ticks inexorably on but, by Brad, it's a Moneyball morning again in the trading Pitts of America. US markets rose on upbeat employment data even as most continental bourses fell for a third consecutive day after the head of French firm Crédit Agricole said, "We are in the worst economic crisis since 1929," coincidentally the year of the first Academy Awards. Speak for yourself - that may be the case across the ocean with Europe officially in recession again but here at home stocks gained once more and now stand on the cusp of their seventh advance in eight weeks. Commodities also saw a bounce, with crude oil spiking for an eighth straight session as we speak. Given that we are still in the depths of winter, There Will Be Blood at the nation's petroleum pumps come Memorial Day at this rate. As our elite actors prepare to fondle a 13 1/2-inch 24-karat man, bullion finds itself at a fresh high for the year, Goldfinger's beckoning more than just James Bond. Bonds of another sort also showed strength after a successful seven-year auction; clearly spending a Week With Marilyn helped scratch investors' itch. Among standout stocks, dairy spreads maker Smart Balance (SMBL) jumped 22.12%, a showing Barbara Streisand would surely describe as "like buttah." Babs tied for Best Actress with Katharine Hepburn in 1969, the only occasion that ever happened. A coin flip may have been the better solution, although that was how they named Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) in 1939 -- the greatest year in movie history -- and its credibility is now Gone With The Wind after sliding 6.53% to prop up all Dow Industrials (^DJI).

Goodbye, Mr. Chips was among the many memorable offerings the year World War Two broke out and Procter & Gamble (PG), up 3.07% to pace all blue chips after pocketing $2.7 billion for the sale of Pringles, would probably also add 'good riddance.' Elsewhere John Pierpont can crack a celestial smile safe in the knowledge that he left The Descendants in excellent shape, JP Morgan (JPM) ending up 1.10% after receiving some brotherly love from Morgan Stanley (MS). Supermarket giant Safeway (SWY) slumped 7.59% in the S&P 500′s (^GSPC) poorest performance, which won't please an Iron Lady who began life as a greengrocer's daughter. International Business Machines (IBM), which entered the world in 1911 as did Maggie's fellow Cold Warrior - a B-movie actor and A-Plus president - fared far better, finishing 1.93% higher at an all-time peak. A diet-drug green light sent Vivus (VVUS) shares surging 77.54% to top the Nasdaq (^IXIC), although one noted thespian is in no need of its product. French women are famous for never getting fat of course and even Crédit Agricole, fresh from a downgrade this morning, should be able to temporarily put the forlorn state of its finances aside forty-eight hours from now. That's when the country's Kodak (EKDKQ.PK) moment is expected to arrive in a Tinseltown venue that is itself an unwittingly fitting monument to bankruptcy. The Artist is set to become the first mute movie in 83 years to win Best Picture and, while an English audience recently demanded its money back upon belatedly learning it was a word-free film, in a week our politicians have expended hot air for a twentieth time, silence is golden.


Nike (NKE): The athletic apparel outfit is a new Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Gannett (GCI): Barclays begins the USA Today publisher with an Equal Weight.

ARM Holdings (ARMH): Shares are picked up with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

Financials: Ares Capital (ARCC) is assigned an Underweight at Barclays, which establishes Equal Weights on Fifth Street Finance (FSC) and Apollo Investment (AINV).

REITs: Cantor Fitzgerald covers EastGroup (EGP) at Sell, has a Hold on STAG Industrial (STAG), and begins Buys on ProLogis (PLD) and First Potomac Realty (FPO).

Wipro (WIT): The Indian outsourcer is initiated with a Perform at Oppenheimer. Although it should benefit from the secular growth of offshore IT services, near term top-line performance is poised to lag that of its peers.


Baxter International (BAX): Citigroup moves the medical device maker to Neutral from Sell.

Campus Crest Communities (CCG): Shares get a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Cirrus Logic (CRUS): Oppenheimer upgrades CRUS to Outperform from Perform and establishes a price objective of $28. The tech firm remains a top back-door play on the growth and success of Apple Inc (AAPL). Shares are sharply higher ahead of the open as a result.

Deutsche Bank (DB): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the financial firm to Buy from Neutral.

Target (TGT): TGT is taken to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Marriott International (MAR): Goldman Sachs adds the stock to its Conviction Buy List.

Natixis (NTXFY.PK): The stock is now Neutral from Sell at Goldman.

AvalonBay (AVB): Credit Suisse raises its recommendation an unusual 180 degrees, to Outperform from Underperform.

REITS: Staying in the sector, Camden Property (CPT), Colonial Properties (CLP) and Post Properties (PPS) are all upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS

Kroger (KR): Citigroup hoists the firm to Buy from Neutral, adds it to their list of Top Picks Live, and takes its price target up to $28 from $24.

Under Armour (UA): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Overweight from Equal Weight.


Gap Inc (GPS): The clothing company gets cut to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James after yesterday afternoon's earnings announcement.

Anglo American (AAUKY.PK): The commodity company is cut Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Ballard Power (BLDP): Ths small cap stock gets downgraded to Hold from Accumulate at Ardour Capital after it missed consensus earnings estimates.

Commerzbank (CRZBY.PK): BNP Paribas cuts the German financial giant to Underperform from Market Perform.

Crédit Agricole(CRARY.PK): Shares of the troubled firm are slashed to Sell from Hold at Société Générale.

CubeSmart (CUBE): Robert W. Baird reduces its rating to Neutral from Outperform and trims its target price by $1, to $12 from $13. Near-term investor reaction remains negative after another disappointing quarter.

Deckers Outdoor (DECK): The maker of Ugg boots beloved of Tom Brady is now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Delhaize Group (DEG): Citigroup downgrades the Belgian grocery giant substantially, to Sell from Buy.

Eagle Rock Energy (EROC): Shares are lowered to Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Forest Oil (FST): Canaccord Genuity cuts FST to Hold from Buy.

easyJet (ESYJY.PK): The budget British airline is now Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Newfield Exploration (NFX): Barclays gives an Equal Weight-from-Overweight reduction to NFX.

PacWest Bancorp (PACW): PACW is now Hold from Buy with a $24 target due to a lack of a immediate catalysts.

Trina Solar (TSL): TSL is taken to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

Warnaco Group (WRC): The underwear maker is moved to Hold from Buy by Benchmark Company. First half headwinds include Olympic marketing, the promotional environment, and exposure to southern Europe.

WebMD Health (WBMD): Shares are reduced to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.
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