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Stock Upgrades: Verizon Hears Money Talking

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Wall Street ratings agencies set the tone for today's stock market.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Exactly twenty-five years ago, trading was murder but yesterday Orient-Express (OEH) surged 22.51% to top the entire NYSE. OJ Simpson, who knows something about murder, is resorting to desperate measures to make money while Hertz (HTZ), his ex-employer, fell a further 0.54% amid delays with its Dollar Thrifty (DTG) deal.

In memory of Black Monday, when stocks slid 22%, Microsoft (MSFT) just announced an identical plunge in profits. Aeropostale (ARO), whose clothing always honors the year so many lost their shirts, shot up 2.36%. Alas it's unlikely Mark Zuckerberg can afford any of their hoodies after Facebook (FB) tumbled another 4.55%. And Mitt Romney took Candy Crowley's debate admonition that he "sit down" to heart, loading up on La-Z-Boy (LZB) to send it up 8.12%.

Today in economics, analysts expect a slight slippage in September existing home sales at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. The first full week of earnings season comes to a close with General Electric (GE), Honeywell (HON), and McDonald's (MCD) among a host of heavy hitters due to report results.

Abbott Labs (ABT): Saying a recent share-price pullback provides an ideal buying opportunity, Wells Fargo moves the medical device maker to Outperform from Market Perform.

Alliant Energy (LNT): LNT is lifted to Buy from Hold with Wunderlich, which takes its target up by $3 to $50.

AvalonBay Communities (AVB): Jefferies juices its recommendation on the residential REIT to Buy from Hold amid its exposure to good supply/demand markets. The target is also taken up, to $156 from $152.

Blackstone (BX): Shares are added to the Top Picks Live list at Citigroup.

BroadSoft (BSFT): BSFT is boosted to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer.

Cheniere Energy Partners (CQP): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse on account of a solid cash flow.

Cummins (CMI): CMI is now Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

East West Bancorp (EWBC): Shares are moved to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Harley-Davidson (HOG): A second upgrade in as many days for the motorcycle maker, moved to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan amid a leaner operating structure, margin improvement opportunity, and brand strength. The target is taken to $56 from $38.

Huntington Bancshares (HBAN): FBR Capital boosts the small cap to Perform from Underperform and takes its target to $7.50 from $5.50. Shares are up before the bell as a result.

Intuitive Surgical (ISRG): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the stock to Buy from Neutral with a price objective of $620.

SanDisk (SNDK): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

Textron (TXT): TXT gets taken to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan based on expectations for business jet demand to slowly rebound.

T. Rowe Price (TROW): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ): The Dow (^DJI) member, a strong performer yesterday, is this morning moved Outperform from Sector Perform at Pacific Crest.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Getting a Kick Out of Manchester United and Stock Downgrades: Search Party Makes Grim Discovery at Google.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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