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Stock Upgrades: Johnson & Johnson Is All About the Benjamins

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

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When the Fed concluded its December 18, 2013 confab by announcing an end to the bond-buying binge, stocks surged. When investors actually got around to reading the details of said meeting, stocks slumped for a fourth time in five days. Welcome to Wall Street, where logic always deserves to trade at a premium. (Even when Einstein rings the opening bell.) Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) thus each continued their decidedly lukewarm start to 2014. The "January barometer," which hails the first five trading days of the year as indicative of the future, officially ended yesterday. That was appropriate, as weather was everywhere. Humorist Kin Hubbard, who famously opined, "Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while," was clearly on to something. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), whose first clown was the most famous climate forecaster in America, dropped 1.01% on a rating downgrade. Mind you, Mark Twain - he of the line "If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes" - could also have been talking about fickle equity analysts, for the fast food firm scores an upgrade this morning. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) warns the ice may impact tomorrow's jobs report; it certainly makes for interesting elevator conversation at the financial firm. Over in Britain, where you often encounter four separate meteorological seasons in a single day, Imperial Tobacco Group (OTCMKTS:ITYBY) tumbled 2.70% on news China may soon ban smoking in public places over fears it isn't smart to breathe that stuff. The English, who understand irony far better than us Americans, could be forgiven for having a wry chuckle over that one.

There aren't any top-tier economic events to move US markets today. Regarding specific stocks, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) unofficially ushers in fourth-quarter earnings season when it announces after the closing bell, with Acuity Brands (NYSE:AYI), PriceSmart (NASDAQ:PSMT), Supervalu (NYSE:SVU), Texas Industries (NYSE:TXI), and Synnex (NYSE:SNX) also due to release results.

Aetna (NYSE:AET): The insurer gets increased to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Angie's List (NASDAQ:ANGI): Raymond James raises its recommendation to Strong Buy from an already upbeat Outperform.

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN): The pharmaceutical firm is hoisted to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies.

Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK): Evercore increases its investment assessment to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Dana Holding (NYSE:DAN): DAN gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Goldman Sachs. Its price objective, previously $22, increases to $25.

DuPont (NYSE:DD): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts yesterday's top Dow stock to Buy from Neutral.

Forest Labs (NYSE:FRX): The stock, which surged on Wednesday, is now Buy from Neutral at Buckingham Research.

H&R Block (NYSE:HRB): Shares, which surged 4.46% even in yesterday's down market, are adding on another 2.12% this morning after being boosted to Buy from Neutral at BTIG Research.

J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP): J.C. Penney stock plunged 10.01% yesterday, but it is rebounding nicely today. This after an Overweight-from-Neutral increase at Piper Jaffray, which says Wednesday's wobble was overdone.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ): With Wednesday's closing price of $94.16, one Benjamin will buy you a single Johnson & Johnson share with $5.84 to spare. (Always assuming my trusty Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ)12c financial calculator is correct; as that stock tumbled 2.59% yesterday, one can't be too sure.) Today J&J stock may further flirt with $100 after getting upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies. Its target price is also taken up, by $6 to $108.

Macy's (NYSE:M): Miracle on 34th Street? Not if you are one of the 2,500 Macy's employees who are about to lose their jobs. The stock is, however, surging some 6.87% as we speak, as BMO Capital moves it to Outperform from Market Perform after yesterday's restructuring announcement.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD): Maybe the clown can turn a frown upside down. Yesterday's downgrade is but a bad dream for McDonald's, whose stock is trading higher this morning after being boosted to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Medical Properties Trust (NYSE:MPW): Jefferies juices its rating to Buy from Hold.

Riverbed Technology (NASDAQ:RVBD): RVBD is raised to Hold from Underperform, also at Jefferies.

SunTrust Banks (NYSE:STI): Bank of America-Merrill moves its fellow financial firm to Neutral from Underperform. Its target price is $38.

WhiteWave Foods (NYSE:WWAV): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at Longbow.

Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM): The Pottery Barn owner is upgraded to Buy from Hold with a $68 target at Argus.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Fast Money Can't Flee Sprint Quick Enough and New Stock Coverage: Go Long, CVS Caremark -- Very Long - Take a Look at Its Receipts)

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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