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Upgrades & Downgrades: Start Spreading the News Corp.

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Ironic on a day when an airfreight distribution company called Expeditors International of Washington (EXPD) saw shares surge 3.52%, but fog over Foggy Bottom canceled commercial flights and prevented select bank CEO's arriving in DC expeditiously for an appointment with Obama. (Perhaps politically incorrect private jets, the method by which JP Morgan's (JPM) chief was able to arrive on schedule, have their plus points.) Gone With the Wind debuted 70 years ago today, but hopes for a productive meeting may have been gone in 60 Minutes, after that fat cat spat. Indeed Bank of America (BAC) is down before the bell after Robert Kelly, tapped to take the top job, said he'd stay put, preferring a Mellon to a lemon. Still the S&P 500 rose for a fourth straight session as it and the Dow hit fresh 14-month highs on a merger Monday and amid Dubai debt relief. See also Two Ways To Play: Abu Dhabi Rescues Dubai.

Visa (V) was a bright spot for financials, gaining 4.22% on an upgrade, which should provide some Salvation for beleaguered charities. (This hours after a retail legend who saw value in Price and didn't accept credit cards passed away.) For more see Credit Card Stocks Worth Paying For. Starbucks (SBUX), at another 52-week high, and Sun Microsystems (JAVA), an 11% gainer, both turned in caffeinated performances but crude closed down for a ninth consecutive session, an event which last occurred six years ago. In more inflationary than expected 8:30AM Eastern economic data, November producer prices rose 1.8% and gained 0.5% ex-autos. Separately, December's Empire State manufacturing index came in at a considerably lower than projected 2.55. A report at 9:15AM is expected to show industrial production up for a fifth successive month. The FOMC's two day meeting begins and expect earnings out of Adobe (ADBE), Best Buy (BBY), and FactSet Research (FDS).

Initiations

Wendys/Arby's Group (WEN): Oppenheimer initiates Wendys/Arby's Group at Outperform ($5.50 target) as the company is in the early stages of a turnaround.

Domino's Pizza (DPZ): Domino's gets a picked up at Perform by the same firm, citing its highly leveraged balance sheet.

Hyatt Hotels (H): Citigroup and Deutsche Bank both initiate Buys on Hyatt Hotels, which is well-positioned to expand its global portfolio. JP Morgan meanwhile assigns an Overweight.

Ancestry.com (ACOM): Positive views on Ancestry.com, assumed at Overweight by Morgan Stanley and Buy at Jefferies and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Emerson Electric (EMR): Morgan Stanley resumes Emerson Electric at Equal Weight.

Commerce Bancshares (CBSH): UBS assumes coverage of regional banks including Commerce Bancshares, assigned a Neutral and $42 target price.

Wireless Communications: Sanford Bernstein starts MetroPCS (PCS) and Leap Wireless (LEAP) with Outperforms on each.

Santander Brasil (BSBR): Recent IPO Santander Brasil is begun at Hold ($16 price objective) by Deutsche Bank, with strong secular banking growth in its home market already reflected in the stock price.

Marshall & Ilsley (MI): The stock is initiated at Sell by UBS.

Upgrades

News Corp. (NWS): Deutsche Bank upgrades News Corp (Buy from Hold), taking its target up $3 to $16 on an improving ad outlook.

Wells Fargo (WFC): The financial is up before the bell after upgrades by both Deutsche Bank and Keefe Bruyette following its plan to repay the government's $25 billion stake.

Palm (PALM): The tech stock is boosted to Buy from Neutral at MKM Partners, the target taken to $20 from $11, as risks appear to have abated.

Arcellor Mittal (MT): Steel giant Arcelor Mittal, which just announced large scale layoffs, is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Delhaize Group (DEG): The stock is increased (Buy from Hold) at ING Group.

3M (MMM): The stock is upped to Buy from Hold with a $91 price objective at Argus, which sees accelerated growth in international markets. See also Why Wall Street is Bullish on 3M.

Real Estate: In the real estate arena, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch lifts Starwood Hotels (HOT) (Buy from Underperform), Senior Housing (SNH) (Buy from Neutral), Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS) (Neutral from Underperform), and AvalonBay (AVB) (Buy from Neutral).

Qwest (Q): The stock is now Buy (from Neutral) at UBS.

JA Solar (JASO): ThinkEquity takes JA Solar to Hold from Sell.

Aruba Networks (ARUN): Needham upgrades Aruba Networks to Buy from Hold with a $12 target as it expects top-line growth to in 2010.

Aluminum of China (ACH): Macquarie raises its Aluminum of China rating to Outperform from Underperform.

Sotheby's (BID): The auctioner may bid up after an Outperform-from-Neutral upgrade at Wedbush Morgan. A strong auction season are among the favorable factors.

Verifone (PAY): The stock is increased to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Downgrades

CBS (CBS): UBS cuts CBS to Neutral from Buy.

FLIR Systems (FLIR): The stock is downgraded to Hold from Buy by Standpoint Research due to valuation.

XTO Energy (XTO): The energy stock gets cut to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital as its shares have largely discounted the Exxon Mobil (XOM) deal.

El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB): The stock is lowered to Neutral from Buy at Ladenburg Thalmann as upside from current levels is limited.

Real Estate Investment: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch clips Annaly Capital (NLY) (Underperform from Neutral) and HCP Inc. (HCP) (Neutral from Buy).

Honeywell (HON): HSBC downgrades Honeywell to Underweight from Neutral and cuts the target to $36 from $55.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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