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Stock Upgrades: Strong Start to the Week for Finish Line

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

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Bill Gates of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) choked up. The "Money Honey" sobbed as she said goodbye. And a Congressman wept after he was caught using cocaine (causing one wit to take to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and declare, "Drug user tearfully admits to being a member of Congress"). They must all be crying all way to the bank, even JP Morgan "Chastened" (NYSE:JPM), which jumped 4.7% even as it handed over another $13 billion. The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI), now above 16,000, and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each rose to records as US stock markets continued their inexorable ascent. It seems nothing can stop equities at the moment. A dangerous ice problem? No worries. Landing at the wrong airport? All in a day's work. Being inadvertently embarrassed in an advertising campaign? Oh please, small potatoes. Amid all this, Boeing (NYSE:BA) still hit the highest level in its history last week, having now advanced 85.88% in a year. Bookstores are making a comeback but there was no such luck for Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which fell 5.7% on the week, nor for Ireland's biggest bookmaker Paddy Power (OTCMKTS:PDYPF), which tumbled 12%. As late as August, it still had Larry Summers as odds-on favorite to become Fed head. Oops.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets this morning, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, October pending home sales are expected to post an improvement from September's pace. Regarding specific stocks, Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN), Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW), Qihoo 360 Technology (NYSE:QIHU), SeaDrill (NYSE:SDRL), and Workday (NYSE:WDAY) are all due to release quarterly results.

Alcoa (NYSE:AA): Alcoa gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Goldman Sachs, which cites the commodity company's "solid position in growing value-added and high-margin aluminum products for the aerospace and automotive industries." Alcoa stock is up impressively this morning as a result.

Bloomin' Brands (NASDAQ:BLMN): Raymond James raises the owner of Outback Steakhouse to Outperform from Perform.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts Dow component Caterpillar to Buy from Neutral. Its price objective on Caterpillar, previously $87, increases to an even $100.

easyJet (OTCMKTS:ESYJY): The budget European air carrier is increased to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL): Finish Line is upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Sterne Agee and to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna. Finish Line stock, up 24.41% in a year, hit a fresh 52-week peak earlier in November.

Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI): GFI gets upgraded to Neutral from Underperform by Bank of America-Merrill.

Green Dot (NYSE:GDOT): Jefferies juices GDOT to Buy from Hold.

Heartland Express (NASDAQ:HTLD): HTLD is hoisted to Outperform from Perform at RBC Capital, which also takes its target price up by $5 to $21 amid an impressive recent acquisition.

RR Donnelley (NASDAQ:RRD): Benchmark Company boosts the stock to Buy from Hold with an increased objective of $21 on account of potential merger synergies.

Smith & Nephew (NYSE:SNN): Shares are now Outperform from Market Perform at Sanford Bernstein.

Stryker (NYSE:SYK): Bernstein moves the medical device maker to Outperform from Market Perform.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Campbell Soup Stock Is All Out of Liquid Assets and New Stock Coverage: Goldman Sachs, Still Doing 'God's Work,' Sees Church & Dwight Heading Heavenward)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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