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Upgrades & Downgrades: Don't Dial Up AOL


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

A solid final hour enabled stocks to rebound from two successive losses as gold slipped for a fourth straight session and oil slid to eight week lows. Debt fears in Athens appeared to ease after Finance Minister Papaconstantinou declared Greece will "absolutely" avoid default, presumably after devising an ingenious plan to charge autograph hunters by the letter. See also Two Ways to Play: Could Greece Default? An analyst upgrade sent 3M (MMM) up 3.41% for the biggest gain in the Dow, though 2M has had better days with the Journal reporting on the predictably fruitless search for a finance job recently encountered by Mark Madoff. While members of that clan remain in a bigger pickle than Valsic, Valassis (VCI) soared 19.44% after issuing impressive guidance.

Citgroup (C) aims to follow Bank of America (BAC) in coming out from under the TARP (see also Bank of America TARP Repayment: An Emancipation Proclamation?), and not a minute too soon since Wall Street nemesis Eliot Spitzer may shortly control New York's cash register. President Obama receives the Nobel Prize in Oslo, praying Norway's suddenly crowded skies don't delay the flight back. And executives of AOL (AOL-WI) ring the Big Board's opening bell. You've indeed got mail, although Oregon inmates will have to settle for postcards. In 8:30 AM economics, weekly initial unemployment claims increased for the first time in six weeks, up 17,000 to 474,000 while the trade deficit narrowed to $32.9 billion in October. Expect earnings out of Ciena (CIEN), Costco (COST), National Semiconductor (NSM), and Smithfield Foods (SFD).


AOL (AOL-WI): As it begins trading, coverage of AOL is assumed at UBS (Neutral) and Merriman (Sell). See AOL's Cash-Flow Fallacy.

Ingersoll-Rand (IR): The stock gets initiated with a Buy at Janney Montgomery.

MSCI Inc. (MXB): Morgan Stanley starts MSCI Inc. at Equal Weight.

Media Stocks: In the media and entertainment space, Needham picks up initiates Disney (DIS) (Hold on uncertainty over consumer spending), CBS (CBS) (Buy, citing an advertising recovery), Viacom (VIA) (Buy, with an international margin expansion proving positive), and News Corp (NWS) (Buy and $18 target, as affiliate fee payments are catalysts).

Electronics: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch initiates Jabil Circuit (JBL) (Buy) and Flextronics (FLEX) (Neutral).

Lighting Manufacturers: UBS begins coverage of Veeco Instruments (VECO) at a Buy and Cree (CREE) with Neutral.

Mylan Labs (MYL): SunTrust starts Mylan Labs with a Buy and sets a target of $23 based on a strong product launch in 2010.

U-Store-It (YSI): Oppenheimer initiates U-Store-It (Outperform; $8.50 objective) on occupancy upside and rental rate growth.

Eastman Chemical (EMN): The stock is initiated with a Buy and a $72 target at Goldman Sachs.


T.Rowe Price (TROW): Jefferies takes T.Rowe Price to Buy from Hold and increases its price objective by $6 to $60 on strong investment performance across its assorted platforms.

Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS): Bank of America/Merrill Lynch lifts its Dick's Sporting Goods rating (Buy from Neutral) and takes its target price to $28 from $23.

Toll Brothers (TOL): The homebuilder is taken to Hold from Sell at Stifel Nicolaus as shares are now more attractively priced.

Companhia Vale do Rio: The sotck is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan, the target taken to $35.50.

Massey Energy (MEE): The stock is up before the bell after an Overweight-from-Neutral boost by JP Morgan.

Goodrich Petroleum (GDP): GDP is increased to Buy from Hold at SunTrust.

FormFactor (FORM): The stock is added to the Top Picks Live list at Citigroup.


CKE Restaurants (CKR): Roth cuts CKE Restaurants to Hold from Buy, citing weak sales trends for the Carl's Jr. division.

Almost Family (AFAM): Robert Baird may find itself disowned by Almost Family after downgrading it to Neutral from Outperform due to valuation.

Novartis (NVS): The stock gets lowered to Hold from Buy by Societe Generale.

Lukoil: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch reduces Lukoil, now Neutral from Buy.

FuelCell Energy (FCEL): The stock is cut to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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