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Stock Upgrades: Bang for Your Buck? Dollar General Blows Bitcoin to Bits

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

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Last week, with the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) setting five straight records, playing the US stock market seemed so effortlessly simple that even a monkey could do it. Now, with the blue chimp - sorry, chip - index staring at a five-session skid, equities are making chumps of us all. (I trust that the great apes will forgive me, for it is not my intention to insult. Indeed they have historically bested all Wall Street "experts" in stock selection ability, and may even shortly be legally classified as "people." Moreover, the one in this picture proved eerily on the money in holding up a carat, on the very day diamond ring king Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) rode a broker boost to rise 1.26%.) Alas, not all issues fared as well. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) tumbled a Dow-worst 2.41%. The stock had surged ever since 57-year-old Steve Ballmer tearfully announced his departure by saying, "I'm an emblem of an old era." How odd, then, that it should slump on news that Alan Mulally, who is in his 69th year, looks increasingly likely to stay put at Ford (NYSE:F). Ballmer is a proud son of Motown, a city that has had better weeks. No sooner does 8 Mile become eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy than a Detroit TV station mistakes Alex Rodriguez for Nelson Mandela. If you think that's nuts, poor peanut butter powerhouse J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM) slid 2.35% on a rating reduction. At least Mr. Peanut, now destined for Washington, did his best to redeem a difficult day for legumes. He once went 94 years without opening his mouth. Our D.C. blowhards should be so reticent.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, analysts expect an increase in the preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan consumer confidence figure for December at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO), Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS), Big Lots (NYSE:BIG), Ferrellgas Partners (NYSE:FGP), and Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores (NASDAQ:SHOS) are all due to release results.

Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX): Cowen moves the medical device maker to Outperform from Market Perform.

BT Group (NYSE:BT): The British telecom stock is showing strength ahead of today's opening bell. This after being raised to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James

Dollar General (NYSE:DG): More good news for Dollar General, which yesterday jumped 6.10% to hit both an all-time high and top the entire S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX). Today Dollar General stock gets upgraded all the way to Conviction Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs. (For those who still prefer Bitcoin, it didn't do too badly on Thursday, either.)

Franco-Nevada (NYSE:FNV): Shares are increased to Outperform from Perform at RBC Capital, which cites operating royalties among other favorable factors. Its price objective, previously $43, increases by $10.

Granite Construction (NYSE:GVA): GVA gets a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade at Goldman Sachs.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC): Intel, the semiconductor stock, whose 2.19% increase topped all Dow issues on Thursday, gets upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup. The analyst says Intel should benefit from a stabilization of its corporate market.

Merck KGaA (OTCMKTS:MKGAY): Merck KGaA, which surged some 6.42% on Thursday, is today hoisted to Hold from Sell at Société Générale. (Germany's Merck KGaA is not to be confused with America's Merck & Co (NYSE:MRK), although a firm founded by Harvard-educated geniuses once did just that.)

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD): Citing burgeoning potential in China, CMO Capital lifts LinkedIn to Outperform from Market Perform. Its target price on LinkedIn stock is also taken up, to $270 from $235.

Pacific Sunwear of California (NASDAQ:PSUN): Brokerage boutique B. Riley raises its recommendation to Buy from Neutral.

Parker-Hannifin (NYSE:PH): Goldman Sachs gives the firm an unusual 180 upgrade, to Buy from Sell.

Rockwood Holdings (NYSE:ROC): Shares are lifted to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, whose new price objective is $86.

Unilever (NYSE:UN): The consumer products powerhouse, whose household brands include Dove soap and Lipton tea, is now Neutral from Reduce at Natixis.

Vodafone Group (NASDAQ:VOD): BNP Paribas boosts the British telecom name to Neutral from Underperform.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Casual Friday Doesn't Suit the Gap and New Stock Coverage: Buy Workday on Jobs Friday?)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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