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New Stock Coverage: Listen Up, Chaps -- Ralph Lauren Is Dressed for Success

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

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Wow, that wasn't a day for the faint of heart. US stock markets rose to such dizzying heights that even hedge-fund-heavy Michael Steinberg felt obligated to feel a little light-headed in lower Manhattan. In a neat touch, his afternoon courtroom conviction dovetailed almost exactly with the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX), each ending at record highs as swooning investors fell hard for equities. On a day when two men with white beards effectively said sayonara in ceding center stage to Santa - you will be much missed, Mr. Mossberg - it was Ben Bernanke whose words carried the most weight. In addition to "taper light," shareholders were encouraged by more robust economic data. This included a 22.7% surge in housing starts, their biggest monthly jump since January 1990. That was the month 30,000 Muscovites braved freezing pre-dawn temperatures as McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) opened right next to Red Square. Ah, for those warm and fuzzy final days of the Cold War, when there still was a Soviet Union. That scenario is surely preferable to the Draconian state of affairs Putin's goons are currently inflicting upon the populace. (In)famous isolationist Henry Ford (NYSE:F) would have beat a hasty retreat from Moscow, and yesterday, amid all the ebullience elsewhere, the car company cratered 6.29% on more European angst. The "devil's metal," which slumped 8.4% last month, further earned its moniker in December as Pan American Silver(NASDAQ:PAAS) slipped 0.72% even as it received an analyst accolade. And lottery talk dominated the day. No, not this one. Rather, one recently held by our Canadian cousins. Its winner just announced he will give away the entire $37 million jackpot. For Warren Buffett, that's a day's pay.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, December's Philadelphia Fed Index, along with last month's leading indicators and existing home sales, all arrive at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, expect earnings announcements out of Accenture (NYSE:ACN), ConAgra (NYSE:CAG), Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI), KB Home (NYSE:KBH), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Red Hat (NYSE:RHT), Tibco Software (NASDAQ:TIBX), and Worthington Industries (NYSE:WOR).

American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL): Stock in American Airlines, which just reorganized after a merger, is a new Neutral at UBS.

American Express (NYSE:AXP): SunTrust has a Buy on American Express stock. American Express is an important member of the Dow.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY): Beleaguered BlackBerry, whose stock has recently traded to ten-year troughs, is a new Neutral at JP Morgan.

Buckeye Partners (NYSE:BPL): RBC Capital launches the limited partnership at a Sector Perform. Its price objective is $72 on a stock it says has impressive exposure to crude oil logistics.

Chelsea Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CHTP): Shares are an Outperform at JMP Securities.

GameStop (NYSE:GME): Benchmark Company has a Hold, and $38.55 target price, on the stock.

GenMark Diagnostics (NASDAQ:GNMK): Shares get begun with a Buy at Needham.

PVH Corp. (NYSE:PVH): The clothing company long known as Phillips-Van Heusen is begun with a Buy and $150 target at Janney.

Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL): Ralph Lauren, which, in addition to its eponymous Polo label, also owns Chaps and Club Monaco, is a new Buy at Janney. Its stock price target is $200. Catalysts include an impressive international expansion initiative.

Software Security Stocks: BMO Capital Markets covers Barracuda Networks (NYSE:CUDA) at Outperform but is marginally less upbeat on Market Perform-rated Check Point Software (NASDAQ:CHKP).

Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV): Shares are assigned a Buy at UBS.

Telecoms: Dual Dow members AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) are each begun with Buys at Jefferies.

Tiffany (NYSE:TIF): Stephens starts the bling king at Equal Weight.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Callaway Golf Fit for a President and Stock Downgrades: Run From JPMorgan Chase)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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