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Upgrades & Downgrades: Exxon's Burst of Energy


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

Last week saw stocks stagger to a split decision, though the Dow did end within one point of its 14-month high and the S&P 500 Index recovered from a poor start. Crude closed lower for an eighth successive session and gold fell over 4% on the week, which won't buck up Beck. The nation's midsection came under attack from both heartland snowstorms and a new McDonald's (MCD) Snack Wrap which swaddles hamburgers in tortillas. Gillette, whose selection of sports spokesmen has given it a grave shave, is granting Tiger some much needed space. See also What's Next for the Tiger Economy. President Obama took time out from overseeing two wars to wave at onlookers from behind bulletproof glass after receiving a peace prize named after the inventor of dynamite. Shakespeare's contention that "there is something rotten in the state of Denmark" proved prophetic as infinitely more exhaust fumes than usual emptied out into its capital city for a climate summit aimed at clearing the air.

As the number of nationwide bank failures this year swelled to 133, the star of a movie about history's most heinous bank robber ventured overseas to promote a five month old film he hasn't yet seen. There's no major economic data today but expect an interesting White House meeting between Obama and bankers he called "fat-cats" on 60 Minutes last night. (Clothing retailer Christoper & Banks (CBK), which plumped up an impressive 26.74% on Friday, apparently escapes opprobrium.) 3Com (COMS), Carter's (CRI), Steak n Shake (SNS), Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), and VeriFone (PAY) all announce earnings.


AOL (AOL): The stock is assumed at Underperform with a price objective of $20 at Credit Suisse which expects a continuing fall off in its internet access business.

Medical Equipment: DENTSPLY International (XRAY) and Sirona Dental Systems (SIRO) each open wide with Buys at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Regional Banks: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch begins coverage of regional banks BB&T Corp (BBT) ($32 price objective) and PNC Financial (PNC) ($62), both with Buys.

CarMax (KMX): Buy is also the new rating assigned by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch to CarMax.

United Fire & Casualty (UFCS): The stock is initiated at Hold by Stifel Nicolaus, the broker believing underwriting margins will decay over the next 18-24 months.


Palm (PALM): The mobile device maker is upgraded to Hold from Sell at Jesup & Lamont as it may have benefited from the promotional gambits of large on-line retailers over Thanksgiving.

Exxon Mobil (XOM): Exxon, which made this a merger Monday morning with its $31 billion acquisition of XTO Energy (XTO), is upped to Buy from Hold at SocGen. See also Exxon: Oiling the Engine of Our Economy.

Philip Morris (PM): The stock is up before the bell after being added to the Conviction Buy List at Goldman Sachs.

Visa (V): The credit card company is now Outperform from Neutral, with Robert Baird on an accelerating in growth.

Waste Services (WSII): The stock is upgraded to Strong Buy at Raymond James.

Cisco Systems (CSCO): The tech stock is raised to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital with an objective of $30.

TCF Financial (TCB): The stock gets a Neutral-from-Underweight increase at JP Morgan.

New York Community Bancorp (NYB): NYB is now Buy from Hold at Stifel Nicolaus ($17 price target) as the AmTrust (AFSI) acquisition is an impressive game changer.

Real Estate: Citigroup's revised REIT outlook sees Buy-from-Hold upgrades for Kilroy Realty (KRC), Public Storage (PSA), and Weingarten Realty (WRI), among others.

Teradyne (TER): The stock is taken to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray with a target price of $13.50.

Illinois Tool Works (ITW): ITW is showing strength before the open on an Outperform-from-Market Perform upgrade at FBR Capital, which cites upside earnings potential and easing comps.

Trustmark (TRMK): Keefe Bruyette takes Trustmark to Outperform from Market Perform on the potential for accretive transactions.

RadioShack (RSH): Barclays moves RadioShack to Overweight from Equal-Weight and takes its target up $5 to $25.

Peabody Energy (BTU): The stock gets a 180 degree Outperform-from- Underperform upgrade at Macquarie.

Brookdale Senior Living (BKD): The stock is added to the Conviction Buy list at Goldman.


Athenahealth (ATHN): Athenahealth is downgraded to Hold at from Buy by Brean Murray, which says the shares are priced for perfection.

Meritage Homes (MTH): The homebuilder is removed from Goldman's Americas Conviction Buy List.

Valley National (VLY): The stock has a steep climb ahead after an Underweight-from-Neutral cut at JP Morgan.

BancorpSouth (BXS): JP Morgan also lowers BancorpSouth to Underweight from Neutral.

Thoratec (THOR): The stock is lowered to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo.

Portland General (POR): Wells Fargo also downgrades Portland General (Market Perform from Outperform).

Total SA (TOT): Barclays downgrades Total to Equal-weight from Overweight.

PMC-Sierra (PMCS): Barclays takes PMC-Sierra to Equal-weight from Overweight while maintaining its $9 target price.

Kimco Realty (KIM): The stock is trading lower after being cut to Sell from Hold at Citigroup.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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