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Upgrades & Downgrades: Amazon on the Up

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Maybe the experts know something we don't know.

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Stocks -- though thankfully not Toyota (TM) -- put the pedal to the metal after consumer confidence hit its highest level in over a year, only to run out of gas late on and end marginally Down Under (it was Australia Day after all). Still, some shares showed surprising strength even as equities overall slipped for the fifth time in seven sessions. An analyst upgrade of TheStreet.com (TSCM) sent it skyrocketing 28.17%, doubtless delighting Crazy Kramer. Sorry, Crazy Cramer. Vail Resorts (MTN) jumped up 5.27%, further filling the pockets of those many moguls assembling on the moguls of Davos as we speak. And inexplicably, Cemex (CX) surged 3.37% on an otherwise down day and after it posted a quarterly loss. Presumably the largest cement maker in the Americas was up in anticipation of Jimmy Hoffa's impending discovery among its slabs as Giants Stadium demolition work begins in earnest after the Jets' playoff loss.

An action packed day ends at 9:00PM Eastern as President Obama opines on the State of the Union. (And let me be clear, I don't mean that one). Beforehand, December new-home sales are expected to show an increase (10:00AM), Apple's (AAPL) eagerly anticipated Tablet is unveiled (1:00 PM), Big Ben announces the Fed's interest rate decision (2:15PM), and Tiny Tim testifies on AIG (AIG) payments. Meanwhile peak earnings week rolls on with results out of Abbott Labs (ABT), Blackrock (BLK), Boeing (BA), Caterpillar (CAT), ConocoPhillips (COP), E*Trade (ETFC), General Dynamics (GD), Netflix (NFLX), Norfolk Southern (NSC), Qualcomm (QCOM), UAL Corp (UAUA), United Technologies (UTX), and WellPoint (WLP).

Initiations

Time Warner (TWX): The media company is initiated at Outperform with a $35 price objective at RBC Capital.

Miscellaneous: Elsewhere, RBC also assumes Outperforms on Tupperware (TUP) ($52 price target) and Human Genome Sciences (HGSI) ($38).

Ag Stocks: In the fertilizer sector, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch begins Agrium (AGU) (Buy), Intrepid Potash (IPI) (Underperform; $30), Mosaic (MOS) and Potash Corp (POT) (both Buys), and Terra Industries (TRA) at Neutral.

Jarden Corp (JAH): The stock is picked up at Outperform at RBC Capital.

Upgrades

Amazon.com (AMZN): The online retailer gets increased to Buy from Hold at Kaufman Brothers ($155 target price) as it expects the company to exceed the high end of revenue guidance. See also Amazon and Walmart: Price War on the Margins.

Best Buy (BBY): The stock is increased to Buy from Neutral at Rochdale Securities.

Kraft Foods (KFT): Kraft is upgraded to Buy from Hold ($33 target) by Stifel Nicolaus ahead of its Cadbury acquisition. For a related story, see First Kraft, Now Hershey Sweet on Cadbury.

Viacom (VIA): The media stock is upped to Above Average from Below Average at Caris & Company, which sets a $36 target. The new primetime series Jersey Shore and Teen Mom have contributed to a noticeable ratings turnaround since December.

AK Steel (AKS): The stock gets a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade at Goldman Sachs.

Moody's (MCO): Moody's is boosted to Buy from Hold at Benchmark ($33 target) due to the apparent strength of debt issuance.

McGraw Hill (MHP): The broker also moves McGraw-Hill to Buy from Hold and takes its target up $10 to $42 as operating momentum should continue throughout 2010.

DeVry (DV): Robert Baird upgrades DeVry (Outperform from Neutral) with an increased $76 target after earnings which exceeded estimates.

Repsol (REP): Barclays boosts Repsol to Equal-Weight from Underweight.

Jacobs Engineering (JEC): The stock is upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform by BMO Capital.

Siemens AG (SI): Siemans is lifted to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): The stock is now Outperform from Market Perform at Leerink Swann.

Hertz Global (HTZ): Hertz gets raised to Buy from Neutral at MKM Partners as the firm sees increased potential for upside earnings surprise.

Baker Hughes (BHI): The stock is boosted to Outperform from Underperform at Calyon Securities.

Molex (MOLX): Molex is up sharply ahead of the open after a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade at Ticonderoga Securities on the back of another strong quarter and outlook.

Morgan Stanley (MS): The financial giant is moved to Outperform from Market Perform by William Blair, which says the recent share price pullback "creates an attractive risk/reward trade-off".

Downgrades

Apple (AAPL): Apple is reduced to Sell from Hold by Technology Research Group, which notes its tax rate was 6% below the prior year. See also Despite Growth, Apple Has a Problem.

US Steel (X): Citigroup (Hold from Buy) and Goldman Sachs (Neutral from Buy) both downgrade US Steel.

Consolidated Edison (ED): Bank of America/Merrill Lynch lowers Consolidated Edison (Neutral from Buy).

Virgin Media (VMED): Bank of America/Merrill moves Virgin Media to Neutral from Buy, with the target now $17.50 from $22.

McKesson (MCK): Leerink Swann cuts McKesson to Market Perform from Outperform.

British Sky Broadcasting (BSY): BNP Paribas takes British Sky Broadcasting to Neutral from Outperform.

Verizon Communications (VZ): FBR Capital cuts Verizon Communications to Market Perform from Outperform on an expected increase in margin pressure.
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