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New Stock Coverage: Belt-Tightening Not Over at Buckle

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

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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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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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