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Upgrades & Downgrades: Could Walmart Boost Wall Street?

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Stocks slid, sending the S&P 500 to its lowest level since November 6th, as disappointing economic data outweighed some impressive earnings. Greek debt fears also affected the mood and neither Athenian ex-pats nor Archie Bunker's heirs could find solace on the streets of Astoria, as Queens' own Ugly Betty was axed and hometown hero JetBlue Airways (JBLU) skidded 7.93%. Teen dreams in apparel from Aeropostale (ARO), tumbling 2.43%, to Zumiez (ZUMZ), falling 4.80%, underperformed the overall market, a fittingly sullen tribute to the recently expired inventor of adolescent angst.

As equities elsewhere ended underwater, Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) -- up 2.20% on impressive earnings -- bucked the tide and Tide sales helped send shares of Procter & Gamble (PG) 1.43% higher on an otherwise dire day. To absolutely assuage Wall Street, P&G may however want to brush up on its choice of Gillette spokesmen. Perhaps the bearded Ben Bernanke, his close shave in the Senate notwithstanding, may be a more astute choice, assuming the hirsute trio of Cramer, Corzine, and Krugman are unavailable. In economics, January Chicago PMI is out at 9:45AM and this month's University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey at 9:55AM. Peak reporting weak wraps up with announcements out of Arch Coal (ACI), Chevron (CVX), Fortune Brands (FO), Honeywell (HON), Mattel (MAT), and Newell Rubbermaid (NWL).

Initiations

Deckers Outdoor (DECK): The stock is initiated at Neutral by CL King.

Cerner (CERN): UBS starts Cerner, also at Neutral.

Health Care REIT (HCN): The stock gets assumed at Neutral by Morgan Joseph. See also The Biggest Growth Stocks in Health Care.

Upgrades

Walmart (WMT): Goldman Sachs, currently America's most beloved company, gives a boost to the country's favorite from a few years ago, raising its rating on Walmart to Buy from Neutral.

Manpower (MAN): JP Morgan upgrades Manpower, now Overweight from Neutral.

BASF: Citigroup lifts BASF (Hold from Sell).

Daimler AG (DAI): HSBC hoists Daimler AG to Neutral from Underweight.

Brookdale Senior Living (BKD): Bank of America/Merrill Lynch lifts Brookdale Senior Living to Buy from Neutral.

CR Bard (BCR): The stock is taken to Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray.

Urban Outfitters (URBN): The retailer gets an Outperform-from-Market Perform makeover with a $35 target at FBR Capital. The broker believes a recent market pullback has made the risk/reward profile more attractive.

Cardinal Health (CAH): Thomas Weisel takes Cardinal Health to Overweight from Market Weight and increases its price objective by $8 to $43.

Maxim Integrated Products (MXIM): GC Research increases Maxim Integrated Products (Overweight from Neutral) and takes its target to $25 from $18.

Liberty Global (LBTYA): Goldman ups Liberty Global (Buy from Neutral).

O'Reilly Automotive (ORLY): Deutsche Bank raises its O'Reilly Automotive recommendation to Buy from Hold, citing potential market share gains.

Robert Half International (RHI): The stock is now Hold from Sell at Stifel Nicolaus after its earnings beat.

Take-Two (TTWO): The video game maker is upgraded to Buy at from Neutral Morgan Joseph, $12 target, saying an accumulation of shares by activist investor Carl Icahn are among the positives.

Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB): The regional bank gets a 180 degree (Buy from Sell) upgrade at Rochdale Securities.

SanDisk (SNDK): The stock is now Neutral from Underweight at JP Morgan, which also increases its price objective to $27 from $18.

Macy's (M): Citigroup adds Macy's to its Top Picks live list, saying investors and the Street are yet to fully appreciate the company's topline and earnings potential.

Downgrades

Nokia (NOK): Telecom titan Nokia is now Sell from Hold at SocGen.

Motorola (MOT): Staying in the sector, Motorola is moved to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie. For a related story, see What Will Motorola Be When It Grows Up?

Burger King (BKC): Oppenheimer cuts Burger King to Perform from Outperform saying franchisee balance sheets are increasingly stretched.

Quest Diagnostics (DGX): Deutsche Bank downgrades Quest Diagnostics (Hold from Buy with the target price now $60 from $66) due to an inevitable slowdown in margin gains.

Federated Investors (FII): FBR Capital cuts Federated Investors to Underperform from Market Perform and maintains a target price of $23. The broker believes that Federated's asset growth and earnings prospects are less attractive than its peers going forward.

K-SEA Transportation (KSP): The stock gets cut to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Check Point Software (CHKP): Checkpoint is now Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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