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Stock Upgrades: Casual Friday Suits The Gap Just Fine


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL China's once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle saw Zhang Dejiang, who studied economics at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, promoted to its Politburo. Because, naturally, North Korea can teach us so much about how to efficiently run an economy. To be fair, this is shaping up to be a decent day for Banana Republic owners, what with Gap Inc (NYSE:GPS) just upgraded and surging some 5.17% before the opening bell.

Wal-Mart (WMT), whose 2.1 million strong workforce is second worldwide only to Beijing's People's Liberation Army, declined 3.63% to lead Dow (^DJI) laggards after losing a big earnings battle. Diamond Foods (DMND) tumbled 21.23% after it announced a massive restatement on Wednesday resulting from an accounting scandal. (Surely it deserves synergistic kudos for cooking the books on very day America's most famous chefs rang the opening bell.) And Time Warner Cable (TWC) bucked a bad tape to climb 1.71% after an analyst hoisted his rating. To slightly misquote Hamlet, a certain Star Trek actor has just been hoist by his own Picard.

It's a fairly quiet Friday for economic data, but earnings announcements are expected out of Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG), Cyberonics (CYBX), Foot Locker (FL), Hibbett Sports (HIBB), J.M. Smucker (SJM), and London Stock Exchange Group (LDNXF).

Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASX): Citing an increasingly attractive valuation, Sanford Bernstein boosts the stock to Outperform from Market Perform.

AtriCure (ATRC): Piper Jaffray juices its recommendation to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Bayer (BAYRY): The aspirin maker gets moved to Overweight from Equal Weight with JPMorgan

Cheniere Energy Partners (CQP): CQP is upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

China Petroleum (SNP): Shares are boosted to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

CIT Group (CIT): The stock is now Buy from Neutral at Nomura.

GameStop (GME): GME gets upgraded to Buy from Above Average at Caris.

Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) The stock, surging 5.17% ahead of the opening bell, is hoisted to Hold from Sell at Canaccord Genuity, which also takes its target up by $4 to $35. Sustained same store sales momentum and improved gross margins offer encouragement.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: (GMCR): Shares get upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Dougherty, whose target price is $33.

Heartland Payment Systems (HPY): HPY gets an Outperform-from-Perform hoist with Wells Fargo.

KT Corp. (KT): HSBC Securities takes the South Korean telecom services stock to Overweight from Neutral.

LG Display (LPL): Shares are lifted to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC.

Mortgage Stocks: Wells gives Outperform-from-Perform upgrades to Annaly Capital (NLY), Capstead Mortgage (CMO), MFA Mortgage (MFA), and Invesco Mortgage (IVR).

NetApp (NTAP): Yesterday's high flier is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Argus amid an improving revenue and margin outlook. The price objective is $36.

OSI Systems (OSIS): Oppenheimer upgrades OSIS to Outperform from Perform.

Quicksilver Resources (KWK): The oil outfit gets moved to Neutral from Underperform at Macquarie.

Regions Financial (RF): RF is raised to Outperform from Perform at Robert W. Baird.

Roper Industries (ROP): Citi boosts the stock to Buy from Hold.

RPC Inc. (RES): The oil & gas outfit is increased to Hold from Sell at Dahlman Rose, which sees an improved risk-reward profile after a recent share price decline.

Timberland Bancorp (TSBK) Raymond James takes TSBK to Outperform from Market Perform.

W.W. Grainger (GWW): The stock gets an Outperform-from-Perform perk up at Oppenheimer.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Gray Day for JetBlue and New Stock Coverage: Don't Expect Discount Brokers to Make You Rich.)
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