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Stock Upgrades: Nordstrom Racks Up Riches

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

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Shares in luxury retailer Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) are surging 10.71% to an historic high before the bell. The department store giant reported better than expected fiscal first-quarter profit. Results at Nordstrom's discount Rack unit were especially impressive, with a tidy 20% increase in net sales to $126 million. Competitor J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), up 18.16% this morning, also looks set for an extremely strong session.
 
Wall Street, what on Earth took you so long? Ukraine just endured its single bloodiest day in the current conflict, economic data in the Euro-zone continues to be dire, and inflation is experiencing an unwelcome uptick here at home. And yet, as recently as Tuesday, the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) rose to consecutive records. Its subsequent back-to-back triple-digit declines seem much more in keeping with reality.

US industrial production plunged in April, confounding the sages who expected it to remain unchanged. (Such faulty forecasting is enough to bring tears to the eyes of any errant economist, even if they don't work at The Onion.) GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), up 0.54% on an upbeat analyst assessment, bucked a brutal tape to brush off being accused of bribery by Beijing. Corruption and kickbacks in China? I'm absolutely shocked - shocked.
 
Today in economics, the preliminary Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey for May is expected to tick up from April's final figure at 9:55 ET. On the corporate front, Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) and Constellium (NYSE:CSTM) each announced quarterly earnings earlier this morning.
 
Now let's turn to this morning's analyst upgrades, a group encompassing commodity and education companies in addition to Nordstrom.

AngloGold (NYSE:AU): The bullion firm is now Neutral from Sell at UBS.
 
Capella Education (NASDAQ:CPLA): BMO Capital boosts the stock to Outperform from Perform.
 
Home Bancshares (NASDAQ:HOMB): HOMB gets hoisted to Outperform from Perform by Keefe Bruyette.
 
Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU): Bank of America Merrill Lynch lifts the railroad to Buy from Neutral.
 
L-3 Communications (NYSE:LLL): Shares are now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse. Its price objective, previously $122, is taken to $145.
 
Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP): The brewing behemoth gets taken to Buy from Neutral at ISI Group.
 
National Bank of Greece (NYSE:NBG): JPMorgan moves the stock, which slumped 16.18% on Thursday, to Overweight from Neutral.
 
Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN): Today's headline upgrade is increased to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, which also takes its target price up by $13 to $78.
 
Protective Life (NYSE:PL): Bank of America Merrill Lynch lifts its recommendation an unusual 180 degrees, all the way to Buy from Underperform.
 
Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU): Shares are hoisted to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.
 
Super Micro Computer (NASDAQ:SMCI): The stock is boosted to Buy from Hold with a $23 target at Stifel, which cites strong internet and cloud data center growth.
 
Stonegate Mortgage (NYSE:SGM): Keefe Bruyette moves the company to Outperform from Perform.
 
Thomas Cook (OTCMKTS:TCKGY): The English travel agent, which endured its worst day in over two years yesterday, is taken to Buy from Neutral at Natixis Bleichroeder today.
 
Twitter (NYSE:TWTR): Yet another upgrade for the social networking name, now Accumulate from Sell with a $35 price objective with Wunderlich, which says the valuation is becoming increasingly compelling.
 
Volkswagen (OTCMKTS:YLKAY): UBS increases the German car giant to Neutral from Sell.

Also see:

New Stock Coverage: BlackRock Is on a Roll

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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