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Upgrades & Downgrades: Bed Bath & Beyond Looking Tired

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Stocks traded in a tight range but continued strength in financials saw markets move higher for a second straight day. Nasdaq, now up in eight of the past nine sessions, is at a fresh 18-month peak of 2,358.95 though those who say that's a bubble don't even know the half of it. 5048.62 was where it stood exactly a decade ago but in the immortal words of Pink Floyd, who just this morning gained a new appreciation for the time value of money, "one day you find ten years have got behind you." Never mind Pink Floyd, the pink sheets was where American International Group (AIG) was headed a year ago; yesterday it ended up 10.59%, good for the best increase in the S&P 500.

By contrast Chevron (CVX) fell 0.45% after being downgraded, and on the very day its CEO rang the Big Board's opening bell. The increasing tendency of equity analysts to risk management's wrath, which was not always apparent during the market's millennial madness, is warmly welcomed. And other kinds of analysts rejoiced over the 21.29% surge in Psychiatric Solutions (PSYS), clearly up in anticipation that Lindsay Lohan will invest her hoped-for $100 million in some desperately needed couch sessions. Today earnings are expected out of Aeropostale (ARO), American Apparel (APP), Ballard Power (BLDP), Buckle Inc. (BKE), Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO), GoldCorp (GG), IMAX (IMAX), Jackson Hewitt (JTX), Lufthansa, National Semiconductor (NSM), Pacific Sunwear (PSUN), Pall Corp (PLL), Rite Aid (RAD), Smithfield Foods (SFD), and Volkswagen.

Initiations

Insurance Stocks: Goldman Sachs starts coverage on the small and mid-cap life insurers. Unum Group (UNM) is assigned a Buy, Torchmark (TMK) and Protective Life (PL) are among the Neutrals while Stancorp Financial Group (SFG) gets a Sell.

STEC Inc (STEC): Benchmark begins STEC Inc at a Hold, the broker believing its shares already discount an optimistic normalized EPS run rate.

LodgeNet Interactive (LNET): The stock is initiated with a Buy and $8.50 price target at Morgan Joseph, which notes the company is the largest provider of media & connectivity services to the hospitality industry.

Tech Stocks: Collins Stewart starts Sanmina-SCI (SANM) (Hold) and has new Buys on Celestica (CLS), Jabil Circuit (JBL), and Flextronics (FLEX).

Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN): Merriman initiates Amylin Pharmaceuticals (Buy; $30-$33 price target range), as it believes the risks of EQW approval declined with the FDA approvals of Byetta monotherapy in December and Victoza in February. See also Should FDA Really Approve Byetta LAR?

Financial Services: Goldman Sachs (GS) ($209 target) and Lazard (LAZ) ($46) are both begun with Buys at Ticonderoga, which has a new Neutral on Morgan Stanley (MS).

Core Laboratories (CLB): Howard Weil assumes coverage on Core Labs with a Market Perform and establishes a price objective of $143.

Upgrades

Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS): The stock is increased to Buy from Neutral at UBS, which takes its target price up to $42 from $31.

Level 3 Communications (LVLT): JP Morgan lifts Level 3 Communications, now Neutral from Underweight.

Sunoco Inc. (SUN): Goldman Sachs removes Sunoco Inc. from its Conviction Sell list. For a related story, see The Case for Cuban Oil.

Hershey (HSY): Goldman also pulls Hershey from its Conviction Sell list.

Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE): The stock is upgraded to Outperform with Northland Securities, which increases its price objective by $7.50 to $25.

ProAssurance (PRA): The stock is boosted to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray, which has a $76 price target.

Downgrades

Yahoo (YHOO): The stock gets a Hold-from-Buy cut ($18 price objective) by Benchmark, which believes the stock could remain a value trap as better-scaled competitors gain share.

Arcelor Mittal (MT): Steel giant Arcelor Mittal gets a Hold-from-Buy downgrade at ING Group, which sees increased pressure on industry margins. As a result it "much prefers" diversified mining shares.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY): The retailer is lowered to Underperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital. Among the concerns cited are companies needing to increase expenses for items including bonuses and labor.

Annaly Capital Management (NLY): The stock is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities.

Comcast (CMCSA): Citigroup cuts cable operator Comcast from its Top Picks Live list due to valuation. For a related story, see Disney Plays Dirty in Cablevision Spat.

Lukoil: Nomura lowers Lukoil, now Reduce from Neutral.

SL Green Realty (SLG): The stock gets cut (Neutral from Buy) at UBS.

Bucyrus International (BUCY): The stock is lower ahead of the open after being cut to Neutral from Buy at Broadpoint. Mounting evidence that China will tighten loan standards introduces some near-term concerns.

Psychiatric Solutions (PSYS): The stock is cut to Sector Perform from Outperform ($25 target) at RBC Capital after yesterday's steep run-up in the shares. The broker believes Bain is the most logical buyer of the company since it already has a presence in the behavioral industry.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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