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Stock Upgrades: Hewlett-Packard Is a Better Bet Than Tottenham Hotspur


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

It's tough to tell what got Mr. Market so excited yesterday. Some say he was seriously smitten by Manpower (NYSE:MAN), which rode a broker boost to advance 1.42%, ending at a fresh 52-week peak. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the smart money was on his being instead aroused by Sara Eisen. After all, she started at CNBC yesterday and is famous for giving a literal lift to the "Hemline Index." Whatever the reason, the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) snapped its four-session skid in some style. US stocks received a pre-Christmas boost from confirmation that yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus, as Ms. Rometty's International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) rose 2.92% to top all Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI). Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) tumbled 4.05% on a rating reduction despite it doing boffo business with once-in-a-century photos of the Sphinx & Co covered with snow. Moving from Tahrir Square to Pershing Square, and from pyramids to "pyramid schemes," there is apparently no end to Bill Ackman's agony after Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) surged 9.43%.

The Federal Open Market Committee starts its final two-day monetary policy meeting of the year this morning. In terms of specific stocks that may move US markets, FactSet Research Systems (NYSE:FDS), Jabil Circuit (NYSE:JBL), Sanderson Farms (NASDAQ:SAFM), Verifone (NYSE:PAY), and Zoltek (NASDAQ:ZOLT) are all due to announce earnings.

Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE): Never a dull moment for Adobe Systems, which was last week's top S&P 500 Index stock and its poorest performer yesterday. Today Adobe Systems, maker of Acrobat and Photoshop, gets upgraded to Buy from Hold at Argus. Favorable factors include high hopes for its cloud suite of products.

Amerisafe (NASDAQ:AMSF): FBR Capital raises its recommendation to Outperform from Perform after a recent management meeting left it optimistic on top-line growth prospects. The price objective, previously $38, increases to $50.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB): Amid video-ad reports, Facebook sees its stock taken to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna. As a result, Facebook stock is currently up about up 1.84% as I pen this piece. (Please read here for more on Facebook.)

Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the stock an unusual 180 degrees, all the way to Buy from Underperform.

Hennes & Mauritz (OTCMKTS:HNNMY): HSBC Securities hoists the Swedish clothing company, popularly known as H&M, to Neutral from Underweight. Yesterday, its stock gained some 1.7%.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ): English soccer side Tottenham Hotspur, who has the Hewlett-Packard logo emblazoned on its shirts, yesterday fired its manager Andre Villas-Boas after a 5-0 thrashing at home to Liverpool. You are unlikely to lose your shirt in Hewlett-Packard stock, however, for it is surging some 2.53% as we speak. This on an Overweight-from-Neutral increase at JP Morgan. Its price objective on Hewlett-Packard, a key Dow component until recently, increases by $5 to $35.

iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT): A second broker boost in five days for the firm, today raised to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (OTCMKTS:LVMUY): The last name in luxury is now Buy from Neutral at Natixis Bleichroeder.

Magellan Midstream Partners (NYSE:MMP): Deutsche Bank boosts the limited partnership to Buy from Hold.

Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX): Seagate Technology, a heavyweight in the hard-disk-drive arena, sees its stock increased to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan. Its price objective, previously $36, increases to $55.

Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC): Seagate rival is raised to Overweight from Neutral, also at JP Morgan.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Chinese Lottery Firm Your Ticket to Mega Millions? and Stock Downgrades: Atlas Shrugs at US Physical Therapy)
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