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Upgrades & Downgrades: Sun Setting on Solar Stocks?


Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

Four may evoke fear in corporate America, but it's just dandy for the Dow, which rose all four days as stocks turned in their best two week performance since November. (Alas for Accenture (ACN), Friday was more a case of "Fore!" as it endured the double whammy of a downgrade and having to hear Tiger thank "my friends" at the company as his 12 step program entered chapter 11.) Any thoughts investors had of jumping out of the Fed's discount window and ending it all were quickly alleviated when core consumer prices posted their first monthly decline since December 1982.

An absence of inflation is just fine for the recent returner of a library record 47 years late, especially with vinyl making a comeback. Wedding planner The Knot (KNOT) did not experience any Valentine's Day lift last week as its shares slid 18.9%. Romance however is not dead, it's merely being tempted underground by an Apple (AAPL). Today is all quiet in economics but expect earnings out of AES Corp (AES), Ambac Financial (ABK), Athenahealth (ATHN), Audi, Autodesk (ADSK), Biovail (BVF), Blackstone (BX), Brocade (BRCD), Campbell Soup (CPB), Constellation Energy (CEG), Domino's Pizza (DPZ), Fannie Mae (FNM), Human Genome Sciences (HGSI), Lowe's (LOW), Nordstrom (JWN), Psychiatric Solutions (PSYS), RadioShack (RSH), Saks (SKS), Sears (SHLD), and Sotheby's (BID).


Limited Brands (LTD): UBS initiates Limited Brands at a Buy.

Human Genome Sciences (HGSI): Bank of America/Merrill Lynch reinstates Human Genome Sciences with a Buy.

Casual Male Retail (CMRG): Roth Capital resumes Casual Male Retail Group (Buy; $4 price objective) as the firm has undertaken several initiatives to streamline operations which, when combined with improving sales at the existing fleet, should lift operating margins.

E*Trade Financial (ETFC): The stock is now covered at Market Perform ($1.70 target) by Keefe Bruyette.

Dendreon (DNDN): Dendreon's shares are higher before the bell after being begun with an Overweight at JP Morgan, which sets a $46 price target. The firm is highly confident that Dendreon's prostate cancer vaccine Provenge will be approved by May 1st. See also Dendreon's Biggest Provenge Problem? Managing Demand.


Viacom (VIA): Deutsche Bank boosts Viacom to Buy from Hold and raises its target price to $37 from $28. Favorable factors include a 10% affiliate fee revenue growth which seems sustainable for some time, and the benefit Viacom derives from being a near pure-play in the attractive cable networks business.

Shire PLC (SHPGY): Oppenheimer raises its rating on healthcare play Shire plc (Outperform from Perform; $78 target) citing an increasingly positive commercial outlook for the company's ADHD franchise.

American Campus Communities (ACC): The stock gets a Buy-from-Hold increase at Argus, which assigns an objective of $32. The broker believes it is well positioned to overcome economic headwinds given the typical negative correlation between GDP growth and university enrollment.

Hub Group (HUBG): Hub is hoisted to Strong Buy from Market Perform at Raymond James, with a target of $30.

Monster Worldwide (MWW): Stifel Nicolaus moves Monster Worldwide to Buy from Hold settings a $20 target, as the company came away from a recent meeting with management that the majority of growth investments are behind it.

PNC Bank (PNC): The stock gets an Outperform-from-Market Perform increase at Sanford Bernstein.

J. Crew (JCG): Brean Murray boosts J. Crew to Buy from Hold with a price target of $50. The stockbroker says a compelling price/value relationship, strong inventory discipline and extremely easy comparisons leave the retailer very well positioned.

Pacer International (PACR): The stock is up sharply ahead of the open after being upgraded to Buy from Hold with an $8 price objective at BB&T Capital Markets.


Solar Stocks: Barclays downgrades LDK Solar (LDK) (Underweight from Equal-Weight and cuts its target in half, to $4), Suntech Power (STP) (Equal-Weight from Overweight, target taken to $12 from $16), and Evergreen Solar (ESLR) (Underweight from Equal Weight). See also Ten Million Solar Roofs Act Huge Waste of Tax Dollars.

H&R Block (HRB): Oppenheimer lowers H&R Block to Perform from Outperform due to uninspiring early tax season channel checks.

Vishay Intertechnology (VSH): Thomas Weisel takes downgrades Vishay Intertechnology to Market Weight from Overweight with an objective of $11.

Home Properties (HME): Valuation and a diminished dividend sees Keefe Bruyette cut Home Properties, now Market Perform from Outperform with the price objective going to $47.75 from $51.50.

LifePoint Hospitals (LPNT):Wells Fargo lowers LifePoint Hospitals to Market Perform from Outperform.

AXA (AXA): Citigroup takes the axe to AXA, now Hold from Buy.

Gilead Sciences (GILD): The stock gets a 180 degree (Sell from Buy) cut at Morgan Joseph due to pessimism about patent expiration among other issues. For a related story, see What's Next in Drugstore Deals.
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