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Stock Upgrades: Callaway Golf Fit for a President


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

The Wolf Of Wall Street is about to be unleashed and, appropriately enough, he starts howling at a freshly full moon. How else to explain the bizarre behavior that saw three events no one thought would ever occur not only take place, but do so on the very same day? Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards - whose epic drug use even extended to snorting his father's ashes with cocaine - defined all pharmacological evidence and reached the ripe old age of 70. More remarkable still, the Senate approved a bipartisan budget deal. And, most astonishing of all, the Fed finally decided to say "finis" to its bond-buying binge after half a decade. As a result, the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index(INDEXSP:.INX) each ended atop all-time highs as US stock markets enjoyed a fresh bout of irrational exuberance. Robust economic reports also boosted bourses. Not least a 22.7% surge in monthly housing starts, their finest such showing since January 1990. That month Driving Miss Daisy won big at the Golden Globes, but presumably she wasn't being chauffeured around in a Ford (NYSE:F). It somehow contrived to slump 6.29% yesterday of all days. With Ben Bernanke still remaining relatively accommodative, Holiday Inn owner InterContinental Hotels (NYSE:IHG) got into the spirit of the season by showing there is indeed room at the inn. It rose 2.58% to a historic best on a broker boost. Also gaining on upbeat analyst action was HCA Holdings (NYSE:HCA), which jumped 2.22% after being named a "Conviction" Buy at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), which has an admirable sense of humor about the hospital operator's criminal history.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, December's Philadelphia Fed Index, along with last month's leading indicators and existing home sales, all arrive at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, expect earnings announcements out of Accenture (NYSE:ACN), ConAgra (NYSE:CAG), Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI), KB Home (NYSE:KBH), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Red Hat (NYSE:RHT), Tibco Software (NASDAQ:TIBX), and Worthington Industries (NYSE:WOR).

BNC Bancorp (NASDAQ:BNCN): Keefe Bruyette boosts BNCN to Outperform from Perform. Its amended price objective is $19.

Callaway Golf (NYSE:ELY): Budget deal done, President Obama tomorrow heads to Hawaii for a 17-day vacation, where our links-loving Commander in Chief will doubtless tee up some R&R on Oahu. Coincidentally, Raymond James raises its recommendation on Callaway Golf stock to Strong Buy from an already upbeat Outperform. Over the past 12 months, its shares have been in the green to the tune of 22.46%.

Forest Labs (NYSE:FRX): Forest Labs scores an analyst upgrade, not its first of late. Shares, which surged another 2.43% yesterday, are now Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

Omnicom (NYSE:OMC): Advertising giant Omnicom sees its stock boosted to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs. The price objective, previously $68, increases to $88.

Rocket Fuel (NASDAQ:FUEL): Shares are raised to Strong Buy from Buy at Needham, which cites a risk:reward ratio that is now better balanced.

Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI): Sirius XM Radio, home of shock jock Howard Stern, gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist with Wunderlich. A recent sell-off is seen as overdone, and the brokerage tweaks its target price to $4.20.

Thomson Reuters (NYSE:TRI): Credit Suisse raises its rating to Outperform from Neutral with a new objective of $43.

Valassis Communications (NYSE:VCI): The stock - a coupon company, not the pickle purveyor - is now Perform from Underperform at BMO Capital. Its shares paced all NYSE advances on Wednesday, rising 22.26% after the firm agreed to be bought.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Listen Up, Chaps -- Ralph Lauren Is Dressed for Success and Stock Downgrades: Run From JPMorgan Chase)
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