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Stock Upgrades: The Gap, Outfitter of Sharon Stone at Academy Awards, Gets Its Groove Back


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

The S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) rose to a record high after balaclavas won their battle with Balaclava. Fed head Janet Yellen said the "unseasonably cold weather" that had half of America donning ski masks "has played some role" in recent iffy economic data. That was all Mr. Market needed to hear, even amid ongoing bloodshed in the Southern Ukraine city whose Crimean War in the 1850s gave us Florence Nightingale, and lives on in the immortal "Light Brigade" lines of Alfred Lord Tennyson. On a day financial data dumbfounded the alleged experts -- both to the upside (durable goods) and the downside (jobless claims) -- economists are unfathomably in greater demand than ever. Hedge fund heavies have likewise done precious little to earn their preposterous pay packets but at least planet Earth's largest publicly traded company of their ilk, Britain's Man Group (OTCMKTS:MNGPY), surged some 14.81% to top all European stocks. And with all eyes on the Oscars, Sony (NYSE:SNE), the studio behind American Hustle, rose 0.81% on a broker boost. This, even as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) advanced 0.98% after attempting to beat back an expensive "hustle" of its own.

Today's economic data includes the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index at 9:45 a.m. Eastern, the final University of Michigan figure for February consumer confidence at 9:55 a.m., and January pending home sales at 10:00 a.m. In earnings action, Bayer (OTCMKTS:BAYRY), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B), Iron Mountain (NYSE:IRM), and 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) all release results.

Aegion (NASDAQ:AEGN): The construction company is now Neutral from Underperform with Wedbush.

Crane (NYSE:CR): Citigroup boosts the stock to Buy from Neutral.

Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Deckers Outdoor (NASDAQ:DECK): The Ugg owner, sliding 13.18% before the bell and downgraded elsewhere to day, is now Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna.

Eaton Vance (NYSE:EV): Sterne Agee takes the money manager to Buy from Neutral.

Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS): I would have married Sharon Stone in a heartbeat, but couldn't bear her having to go through life being known as Sharon Sharon. (Although, being brutally realistic, there may have been other reasons why she would never have agreed to march down the aisle with me.) Anyhoo, back in Alan Greenspan's "irrationally exuberant" year of 1996, the Basic Instinct actress memorably wore a Gap turtleneck to the Academy Awards. Might Jennifer Lawrence reprise the look on Sunday? Maybe, but for now casual Friday suits the clothing company just fine after this morning's Neutral-from-Underweight upgrade at Atlantic Equities. Shares are, alas, currently trading slightly lower today after the clothing company announced its earnings last night.

MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI): The Buenos Aires-based online attic, often called "Latin America's eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY)" is surging some 12.81% as we speak. Today, its shares are moved to Buy from Sell at Stifel.

RadiSys (NASDAQ:RSYS): Needham raises RSYS to Buy from Hold.

SABMiller (OTCMKTS:SBMRY): Miller time? The brewing behemoth, whose other brands include Grolsch, Peroni, and Pilsner, gets upgraded to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital. Shares are seen as attractively valued after tumbling over the past 12 weeks.

Total S.A. (NYSE:TOT): UBS takes the French oil titan to Buy from Neutral.

TripAdvisor (NASDAQ:TRIP): The online travel name is now Neutral from Negative at Susquehanna, sending its shares up slightly ahead of the open.

WesBanco (NASDAQ:WSBC): Keefe Bruyette boosts its fellow financial firm to Outperform from Perform. Its price objective is $34.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Signature Bank Is on the Oscar Envelope (MVPRO article)

Stock Downgrades: The Wolf of Wall Street? Deckers Outdoor Slumps in Sheep's Clothing (MVPRO article)

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