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New Stock Coverage: Brown-Forman Is in Great Spirits

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

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On the first full day of spring, clouds rolled in at Oracle (ORCL) and the sun kissed island of Cyprus. A 9.69% nosedive in the suddenly unloved tech titan allied to ongoing economic angst on the shores of the Mediterranean sent shares slumping.

With a $13 billion eurozone bailout on the line, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) fell 13 and the VIX Index (^VIX) surged above 13, so it certainly didn't pay to be superstitious. In analyst action, a decidedly iffy initiation of ATM maker Diebold (DBD) was powerless to prevent it gaining 1.06%; let's only hope the Cypriot sense of humor runs as dry as their bank accounts.

And Apple (AAPL) bucked a bad tape to end up amid speculation that the fifth iteration of its iPad and seventh version of its iPhone is coming soon. The event is billed as one of "New Ideas," which will have the truth-in-advertising crowd all atwitter.

No top-tier economic data due today, but Darden Restaurants (DRI) and Tiffany (TIF) are both out with earnings that beat Street estimates this morning, the latter in especially impressive fashion.

Alcohol Stocks: Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF.B), whose brands include Finlandia, Jack Daniel's, and Southern Comfort, is started with a Buy at Stifel. A $78 price objective is assigned, and shares are seen leveraging a strong product portfolio. An identically upbeat rating is rolled out on Guinness brewer Diageo (NYSE:DEO) where emerging markets, which represent fully 42% of revenue, are an increasingly attractive profit stream. Beam, Inc. (NYSE:BEAM), the company behind Maker's Mark, rates only a Hold however amid valuation issues.

Bright Horizons Family Solutions (BFAM): BFAM is begun with an Outperform at William Blair.

Children's Place (PLCE): Goldman Sachs starts the stock at a Sell.

Healthcare Trust of America (HTA): JPMorgan has a new Neutral on HTA.

Internet Stocks: RBC Capital launches Sector Performs on LinkedIn (LNKD) and Yelp Inc. (YELP). It is more bullish on online realtor Zillow (Z), establishing it at Outperform.

Panera Bread (PNRA): Sanford Bernstein picks up PNRA at Outperform.

USG Corporation (USG): The building materials behemoth is begun with a Buy at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Zynga (ZNGA): Crédit Agricole is unimpressed with the social gaming giant, assigning it an Underperform.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Ryder on Yellow Brick Road to Riches and Stock Downgrades: For Vail Resorts, It's All Downhill From Here.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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