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New Stock Coverage: Red Ink at Red Lobster Owner Darden Restaurants


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

They say what goes Upton must come down, but so far the Sports Illustrated cover girl is working the customary magic on the market. Shares continued their advance, with blue chips ending back above 14,000 for the first time since the start of February.

Some equities did miss out on the fun, with a one-two punch in Facebook (FB) causing that stock to fall 3.15%. The social networking name was downgraded not once but twice, with brokerage firm BTIG slashing it to sell later in the day on slowing user "engagement." Ironic, with some six million couples set to become engaged tomorrow.

It's far easier to make up than break up anyway, especially with the world's largest cosmetics company L'Oréal (LRLCY) gaining 3.89% to near a new high. That will cut considerable ice with its spokeswoman, who once implored us not to be "fooled by the rocks that I got, I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block."

Speaking of, now that Liz Lemon has left the building, 30 Rock was just sold for big bucks by GE Capital. This enduring inspiration was built during the singularly dark decade of the 1930s, which makes Apple's (AAPL) dissing of its own "Depression era mentality" all the more puzzling. And BAE Systems (PINK:BAESY), Europe's biggest weapons maker, fell 1.79% on an iffy analyst initiation. Presumably the continent, current holders of the Nobel Peace Prize, won't be too upset.

Today in economics, December business inventories are due out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Avis Budget (CAR), Cisco Systems (CSCO), Deere (DE), EOG Resources (EOG), Lorillard (LO), MetLife (MET), NetApp (NTAP), Société Générale (PINK:SCGLY), Whole Foods (WFM), and Zillow (Z) are all expected to release results.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI): The fast-food firm, owner of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, is a fresh Underperform at Crédit Agricole. Its price objective is $49.

Fortune Brands Home & Security (FBHS): FBHS is rated an Overweight by Barclays.

Gartner Inc. (IT): Barclays establishes an Equal Weight on IT.

GreenHunter Energy (GRH): Shares are a new Buy with Wunderlich, whose objective is $4. The electric utility should benefit from its array of saltwater disposal wells with collection and transportation capabilities amid a fracking boom.

Oil & Gas: Credit Suisse covers Concho Resources (CXO) and SandRidge Energy (SD) at Neutral and assigns an Outperform on Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD).

Piedmont Natural Gas (PNY): The stock is a new Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

USG Corporation (USG): The maker of building materials gets begun with an Overweight at Barclays.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Pucker Up to Avon Products and Stock Downgrades: Ketchup King Heinz Can't Cut the Mustard.)
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