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Stock Upgrades: Be Bullish on Bank of America


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

The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each reached fresh peaks in 2013 and, as the New York Times (NYSE:NYT) appropriately opened 2014 by reviewing a restaurant called "Toro", this remarkable bull run shows absolutely no signs of ending any time soon. (Especially in light of today's upgrade of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), whose money-making Merrill Lynch unit has long had as its logo…well, you know.) Exactly one year ago today, Wall Street was off to the races after the resolution of our fiscal cliff crisis. Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF), which somehow contrived to tumble 32.12% in the subsequent 12 months amid all the green ink elsewhere, never got the message, but most other equities soared. The Wall Street Journal owner News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) needn't feel envious about the New Year's Eve revelry at its arch-rival's Times Square, for it finished the year at a historic high. Indeed old school newspapers rang out the old year in some style, with Daily Journal (NASDAQ:DJCO) jumping 11.54% on Tuesday. (Never mind that Warren Buffett's billionaire buddy still can't seem to meet basic deadlines.) Moving to magazines, front-page hero Elon Musk saw his Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) surge 344.1% in 2013. Given the utter infallibility of the cover curse, however, one can't help wonder whether this will make him a high-profile hostage to Fortune in 2014.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, November construction spending and December's Institute for Supply Management data are each released at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, expect earnings announcements out of DryShips (NASDAQ:DRYS), Landec Corporation (NASDAQ:LNDC), and Resources Connection (NASDAQ:RECN).

American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO): Shares get juiced to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ:ASNA): Goldman Sachs gives the apparel outfit, formerly known as Dress Barn, a Buy-from-Neutral increase.

Astoria Financial (NYSE:AF): Shares are moved to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC): Bank of America stock was unceremoniously booted from the Dow last year, but 2014 is off to a better start for the financial firm. Shares are now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup, which cites earnings improvement combined with cost cuts. Its price objective, previously $16, increases to $19. The stock is, accordingly, up about 1% as I pen this piece.

Crocs Inc. (NASDAQ:CROX): The footwear firm is moved to Buy from Neutral at Monness Crespi.

Duke Realty (NYSE:DRE): BMO Capital Markets raises the industrial Real Estate Investment Trust to Outperform from Market Perform.

Electric Utilities: American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) and Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) are each upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital.

Jacobs Engineering (NYSE:JEC): Shares are raised to Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which also takes its target up by $7 to $74. Catalysts include the company's exposure to energy infrastructure.

Papa John's International (NASDAQ:PZZA): Papa John's International stock gets hoisted to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN): Urban Outfitters gets increased to Buy from Hold at Jefferies. In 2013, even as consumer discretionary stocks were the single best performer on Wall Street, Urban Outfitters fell 5.7%.

U.S. Steel (NYSE:X): KeyBanc Capital Markets moves the commodity company to Buy from Hold.

Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX): Goldman Sachs turns positive on the semiconductor stock for the first time on over half a decade, boosting it to Buy from Neutral. As a result, shares are up 1.26% as I write this article.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot? 77-Year Old Carl Icahn Could Spell Trouble For Apple In 2014 and New Stock Coverage: Going Gaga for Live Nation)
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