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New Stock Coverage: Is McDonald's, Much Like the French, Fried?

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

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For a day book-ended by two Starship Enterprise icons - Jean-Luc Picard helped ring the opening bell on behalf of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and his predecessor Captain Kirk saw Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN) announce earnings after-hours - shares sure came crashing back down to Earth. US markets slumped, with S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) stocks enduring their worst session in months. This despite the best efforts of the micro-blogging service, which surged 72.69% on its debut. Still, even after multiple analyst hosannas, Morningstar's (NASDAQ:MORN) Rick Summer said the stock is "overvalued." Clearly, one swallow does not a Summer make, if our little bluebird friend will forgive me mixing my ornithological metaphors. Ironically, on a day Twitter came to market, and most other stocks swooned, Western Union (NYSE:WU) edged up 0.87%. Its pithy telegrams were the Twitter of its time, including an unforgettable one from the icy waters of the North Atlantic in April 1912: "SOS SOS CQD CQD TITANIC. WE ARE SINKING FAST. PASSENGERS ARE BEING PUT INTO BOATS. TITANIC." (Which reminds me, Violin Memory (NYSE:VMEM) jumped 4.55% even amid a rising tide of red ink elsewhere, and not long after the doomed vessel's identical musical instrument similarly went for big bucks.) Western Union sent its last missive in 2006. Two months later, some 29-year old from St. Louis sent his first Tweet. What hath God wrought, Mr. Morse?

In terms of economic events that may move US markets this morning, the Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index for November is expected to improve from October's final figure at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, Atlas Energy (NYSE:ATLS), Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), Compagnie Financière Richemont (VTX:CFR), Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF), Telefónica (NYSE:TEF), and Xinyuan Real Estate (NYSE:XIN) are all due to announce earnings.

Antero Resources (NYSE:AR): The oil and gas outfit gets assigned a Buy rating and $75 target price at Jefferies.

Clinical Laboratory Stocks: FBR Capital has fresh Market Performs on Laboratory Corporation (NYSE:LH) and Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX). Its respective price objectives are $111 and $68.

Fast Food/Beverages: RBC Capital Markets establishes Outperforms on Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), donut dynamo Dunkin' Brands (NASDAQ:DNKN), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) ($90 objective), and Pizza Hut parent YUM Brands (NYSE:YUM).

EchoStar (NASDAQ:SATS): Shares are set at Outperform at Raymond James.

Hospital Stocks: Lifepoint Hospitals (NASDAQ:LPNT) is a Perform at FBR Capital, whose target is $55. It is more upbeat on Outperform-rated Universal Health (NYSE:UHS), assigned a $94 price objective.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD): As Janis Joplin once said, maybe freedom fries are just another two words for nothing left to lose. (I quote from memory.) Today the fast food firm, a key Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) component, is assigned only a squishy Sector Perform at RBC Capital. Although McDonald's 3.3% dividend yield merits a positive mention by the brokerage, McDonald's shares have substantially underperformed the broader market over the past 12 months. Moving from French fries to France itself…

Peugeot (OTCMKTS:PEUGY): Thinking about fleeing freshly-downgraded France in a Peugeot? Think again. Citroën owner Peugeot, pride of Paris, is today resumed with a downbeat Reduce at Nomura. Peugeot is currently undergoing a wave of restructuring and attendant layoffs amid plunging car use in Europe, especially among the young.

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR): After the analyst-inspired adulation of 24-hours ago, it may be back down to Earth for Twitter today. Shares are assigned a lukewarm Neutral with Wedbush, whose price objective is $37. Even worse, Hudson Square starts Twitter with a "Sell", the ultimate four-letter insult among ever-optimistic equity analysts. Twitter rose 72.69% on Thursday to post the NYSE's best performance in an otherwise awful session for US stock markets.

William Hill (LON:WMH): Shares in the British bookmaker are tumbling about 2.13% in London today, after being begun with an Underweight a HSBC Securities.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Scotts Miracle-Gro Not Going to Pot and Stock Downgrades: Blockbuster Nights Are Over at Tremor Video)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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