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Upgrades & Downgrades: Say Yes to Nokia

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Late selling pressure on light volume couldn't stop stocks increasing for a second successive session in a solid showing. Investors took heart from a drop in those continuing to collect checks for unemployment, though the number of newly laid off last week surprisingly rose and included even Wall Street octogenarians. (At least such a legend can count on having impeccable references, which in this bleak job market are apparently a prerequisite even for aspiring terrorists.) Industries derided as old-hat stormed back; Borders (BGP) hopes its 10.94% pop means the bookworm's turned while newspaper publisher Gannett's (GCI) 7.0% gain was good for the second best increase in the S&P 500 Index.

By contrast the sorry tale of TigerLogic (TIGR), down 15.70%, must bring fresh tears to the eyes of Tiger Woods. And Maria Bartiromo, who remembers headier days for Citigroup (C), reported on the bank's ongoing attempt to extricate itself from TARP. See also What Does Citi's TARP Repayment Mean for the World? In a batch of 8:30 AM Eastern economic reports which exceeded estimates, November retail sales rose 1.3% overall and were 1.2% higher excluding autos while a separate survey showed import prices increasing 1.7% last month. At 9:55AM the University of Michigan's preliminary December consumer sentiment reading is expected to show a slight gain.

Initiations

DIRECTV (DTV): The stock gets reinstated with a Buy and $39 price target at Goldman Sachs.

Blackboard (BBBB): Back to school for Blackboard, started at a Neutral by JP Morgan.

Pharmaceuticals: Piper Jaffray picks up Watson Pharmceuticals (WPI) (Underweight and an objective of $34), Teva (TEVA) (Overweight; $63) and Biovail (BVF) (Overweight). For more on this sector, see Pharma's Next Big Thing: Personalized Medicine.

Shutterfly (SFLY): Lazard starts Shutterfly at a Buy.

Dole Foods (DOLE): BB&T Capital assumes coverage of Dole Foods at a Buy.

Corning (GLW): Jefferies initiates Corning with a Buy.

AOL Inc. (AOL): Sanford Bernstein starts yesterday's IPO AOL at Outperform. See also AOL's Cash-Flow Fallacy.

EMC Corp. (EMC): FBR Capital begins EMC with an Outperform, citing renewed strength from it Symmetrix product cycle.

Discount Retail: TJX Companies (TJX) and Ross Stores (ROST) are each initiated at Perform by Oppenheimer.

Financial Stocks: Janney Montgomery initiates BB&T (BBT) and M&T Bank (MTB) with Neutrals and SunTrust (STI) at a Buy.

Intuit (INTU): The stock is initiated with a Buy at Broadpoint AmTech Research, which assigns a target price of $38.

Upgrades

Nokia (NOK): The mobile device company is up before the bell after being boosted to Hold from Sell at SocGen. Also read part of our latest feature, Companies That Almost Weren't: Nokia.

El Paso (EP): The stock gets upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital, with a price objective of $14.

Energizer (ENR): Energizer has been increased to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Century Casinos (CNTY): An inexpensive valuation sees Century Casinos upgraded to Buy from Hold at Brean Murray.

Edwards Lifesciences (EW): Citigroup lifts Edwards Lifesciences to Buy from Hold and takes its target up $29 to $101, citing strong financial guidance for 2010.

Yahoo (YHOO): The stock is up before the open after a Buy-from-Hold increase at Kaufman Brothers.

NCR Corp. (NCR): JP Morgan raises NCR Corp to Overweight from Neutral.

Downgrades

Health Net (HNT): The stock is cut to Hold from Buy by Stifel Nicolaus after its earnings guidance.

Sanderson Farms (SAFM): Sanderson Farms gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Argus due to near-term challenges.

Lorillard (LO): The stock is removed from the Focus List at Credit Suisse as shares are now approaching fair value.

F5 Networks (FFIV): William Blair cuts F5 Networks to Market Perform from Outperform.

Burlington Northern (BNI): Robert Baird lowers Burlington Northern (Neutral from Outperform). Don't miss Ryan Goldberg's series on Turbulent Transports.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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