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Stock Upgrades: Shrugging Off Sanctions, Even Oligarchs Are 'Russian' Into Time Warner

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

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Moscow's stock market is slumping this morning amid an asset freeze from Uncle Sam, but Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), whose glitzy headquarters once housed an oligarch's daughter from Mother Russia, is a safe house for any Siberian exiles to ride out the panic room. Shares of the media and entertainment empire surged yesterday amid news of a rebuffed $80 billion buyout bid from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA).
 
Lena Dunham has an absurdly difficult time keeping her clothes on but thanks to HBO's Girls and its other highly coveted assets, investors were in no danger of losing their shirts. Instead its owner, our aforementioned Time Warner, profitably wore the pants, surging 17.07% to top all S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) issues and inspiring the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) to its 15th record close of 2014. Bay Area tech icons Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), in favor again, and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which surged 9.27% on excellent earnings and an analyst upgrade, made a great case for Silicon Valley becoming its own state. In which case Santa Clara's suddenly shunned Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) would live in the less expensive part of town. Shares fell 5.11%, a seriously depressing showing that no doubt turned Marissa Mayer 41 shades of blue. (At least she has not, as of yet, turned the air as blue as her predecessor did when asking in exasperation, why is "nobody f&!#ing doing anything" to tackle the tech titan's troubles.) HCA Holdings (NYSE:HCA) from Nashville -- where everyone fiddles around, especially with the company's accounting -- advanced 10.47% to a fresh best. Elsewhere William Ackman and Carl Icahn hugged it out but Kisses were in extremely short supply at an unloved Hershey (NYSE:HSY), which tumbled 2.25%. Chocolate sales in trouble? Yeah, right. Next they'll be telling us kids are actually eating their vegetables.
 
Today in economics, the Philadelphia Fed Index for July is forecast to fall from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. EDT. On the earnings front, expect announcements out of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), and UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH).
 
Now let's analyze this morning's research recommendations, a group encompassing an American insurance outfit and European bank as well as our aforementioned Time Warner.

AFLAC (NYSE:AFL): Raymond James raises its recommendation to Outperform from Perform.
 
Allegiant Travel (NASDAQ:ALGT): ALGT gets increased to Buy from Fair Value at CRT Capital.
 
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (NYSE:BBVA): Beleaguered Portuguese financial firm Espírito Santo upgrades the company -- which, despite its name is actually Spanish -- to Buy from Neutral.
 
CLARCOR (NYSE:CLC): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which cites gas turbine opportunities among other catalysts.
 
Endurance Specialty (NYSE:ENH): Janney juices its rating to Buy from Neutral.
 
First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC): The stock is taken to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James.
 
International Game Technology (NYSE:IGT): Goldman Sachs gives the surging stock, downgraded elsewhere today, a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade.
 
SM Energy (NYSE:SM): Shares get boosted to Buy from Neutral at Guggenheim.
 
Time Warner: Janney takes today's headline equity to Buy from Neutral. Its price objective is $100.
 
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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