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New Stock Coverage: CliffsNotes Can Help Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Climb Every Mountain

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

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Go, go, go, go, go, go
Go shawty, it's your birthday.
We gonna party like it's your birthday.
– 50 Cent, "In da Club"

Fiddy, my two cents worth is that your first line still needs a little work. After all, Gogo (NASDAQ:GOGO) - which slid some 17% last week - gapped down again yesterday, thus its valiant attempt to Get Rich or Die Tryin' unfortunately looks like it's ending in the latter. As for "Go shawty?" Awful advice on a day investors again went long, with the Dow Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) leading US stock markets to fresh bests. But the Fed did indeed birthday party in some style as the organization that saved us from a 1,000-year flood five years ago turned 100. And it did also pay to be in da extraordinarily exclusive club that is the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) for Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which rose 4.81% on its first day in the index. Elsewhere, hip hop house music worked a treat as a broker boost sent KB Home (NYSE:KBH) surging 7.57%. With the sector now standing at a five-month high, realtors continue to have tons of fun. (A little too much mirth, if truth be told. Guys, get a room.) Tonight kids the world over will send adorable letters to Santa but Bill Ackman got his Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) missive in early, penning an 8-page piece complete with annotated footnotes on the day his favorite short took its 12-month advance to 196.33%. His SAT scores were 780 (verbal) and 750 (math). For us mere mortals who CliffsNoted our way through college, there is hope, however, as we shall soon see.

'Tis the day before Christmas, when US stock markets close three hours early at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. In terms of economic data due this morning, November new-home sales are expected to improve from October's pace at 10:00 a.m. There will be no trading tomorrow, with investors instead at home awaiting gifts from the man with the white beard. (This one. Not that one, for the latter has been quite generous enough this year, and deserves a rare day off.)

Archer-Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM): Stifel has a Hold on Archer-Daniels Midland, saying that potential upside is already reflected in the stock price after it has gained almost 60% this year.

CECO Environmental (NASDAQ:CECE): Shares are assigned an Outperform and $19 price objective at Boenning & Scattergood, which projects organic growth in the neighborhood of 9%.

Cumulus Media (NASDAQ:CMLS): Ascendiant Capital Markets covers the company at a Buy.

EVERTEC (NYSE:EVTC): Shares are started with a Buy rating and $27 target price at Stifel, which says the company can benefit from growth opportunities in countries including Costa Rica and Columbia.

Extended Stay America (NYSE:STAY): Shares, which attracted several analyst initiations yesterday, are today begun with a Buy at Deutsche Bank.

First Busey (NASDAQ:BUSE): DA Davidson has a fresh Neutral on the stock. Its price objective is $6.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ:HMHC): The educational textbook publisher, which acquired slacker student Godsend CliffsNotes last year and went public last month, attracts a sleigh, sorry slew, of Christmas Eve analyst initiations. BMO Capital (Outperform), Goldman Sachs (Buy), Morgan Stanley (Overweight with a $20 target), and Stifel (Buy and a $21 objective) are all equally upbeat although Piper Jaffray, at Neutral, advises greater caution. Stifel says Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is in the embryonic stages of a turnaround, and believes the stock sports an attractive valuation at 9.2 times its estimate for calendar 2014 EBITDA (a $10 term that stands for "Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization", according to my trusty CliffsNotes).

Telecom Italia (NYSE:TI): Telecom Italia stock is a new Neutral at Credit Suisse.

TransCanada (NYSE:TRP): Goldman Sachs starts coverage at a Neutral.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Santa, Crediting Botox for Never Aging a Day, Backs Up the Sleigh on Allergan and Stock Downgrades: Today Is No Time to Back Up the Truck on Heartland Express)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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