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New Stock Coverage: Belt-Tightening Not Over at Buckle


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

US stocks endured their single worst week of 2013 after the labor force participation rate slumped to levels last seen in 1979. That was, of course, the year a now sadly departed titan of the Twentieth Century removed the Labour Party from office with a pun on unemployment that has gone down in advertising history. (Eat your heart out Don Draper; for many, Mad Men won't ever close to an iconic Iron Lady, even if AMC Networks (AMCX) did hit the highest level in its history on Friday.) Maggie ruled over a "tight, little island" that exerted outsize influence on the world.

But bad things can also come in small packages, with the Lilliputian Russell 2000 Index (^RUT) suffering its worst swoon since June while another tiny speck on the continent of Europe threatens to have big repercussions.

No top-tier economic data due today but Alcoa (AA) unofficially ushers in what is expected to be a decidedly mediocre first quarter reporting season when it releases results after the close.

Apparel Stores: Ascendiant Capital Markets has a new Neutral and $40 price objective on Buckle, Inc. (NYSE:BKE) amid challenging same store sales comparisons. It starts Wet Seal (NASDAQ:WTSL) with a Strong Buy and $4 target price as a turnaround appears set to gain traction.

AcelRx Pharmaceuticals (ACRX): Shares are assigned a Buy at Jefferies.

Engineering & Construction: Goldman Sachs starts Granite Construction (GVA) with a Sell, has new Neutrals on Fluor Corporation (FLR), Foster (FLR), Foster Wheeler (FWLT), and Jacobs Engineering (JEC), and begins Buys on both Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI) and KBR, Inc. (KBR).

G-III Apparel (GIII): The textile firm is a fresh Overweight at Barclays.

Micron Technology (MU): Morgan Stanley starts the stock at Equal Weight.

Perion Network (PERI): Impressed with its robust pipeline of product launches and mobile expansion plans, Needham picks up PERI with a Buy. Its price objective is $14.

RealPage (RP): JPMorgan rolls out Neutral rated research on application software stock RP.

Silver Spring Networks (SSNI): Credit Suisse and Robert W. Baird each start the stock at Outperform, the latter setting a $22 price target on a company it says has impressive leverage to the smart grid sector. Goldman and Piper Jaffray are both less upbeat, assigning only a Neutral on the name.

Tile Shop Holdings (TTS): Credit Suisse assigns an Outperform on the equity.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX): The biotech is covered with a Hold at Canaccord.

Western Gas Equity Partners (WGP): Shares are begun with a Buy at Ladenburg Thalmann, whose target is $42.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Analyst Falls for First Niagara and Stock Downgrades: Band Aid Giant Johnson & Johnson Gets a Nasty Cut.)
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