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Stock Upgrades: Baby, It's Cold Outside, but SolarCity Shines

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

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Redress or red dress? While most equities began the new year by correcting from the excess of 2013, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch's (NYSE:BAC) strategist in scarlet, cover girl Savita Subramanian, saw her stock ride a broker boost to gain 4.7% as 2014 began. Thus the firm which was almost bankrupted in 2008 by the financial world's 1,000-year flood lived to celebrate its 100th birthday in some style. With Baghdad blowing up again, Thomas Friedman's observation about interim occupying powers in Iraq - "In the history of the world, no one's ever washed a rented car" - was once more in vogue. Maybe, but Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) still surged almost 11% on the week. Alas, US markets overall fared far less well, with the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index(INDEXSP:.INX) dropping after their record run in 2013. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), downgraded anew this morning, imploded 3.4% after being lowered by analyst Maynard Um. (Not to be confused with Jason Maynard, whom he replaced). Cosmetics company Revlon(NYSE:REV) decided it wasn't worth putting lipstick on China's pigs - just as well, really- and bid goodbye to Beijing. Bill Gross, who has trouble with ties, endured a hellish time. As did Thailand, which fell 5.61% to prop up all Asian indices. And the American Economic Association began its annual meeting on Friday. That same day broadcasting icon Adam Smith, whose disdain for jargon-spouting practitioners of the dismal science was memorably encapsulated in his expression "Assume a can opener," passed away.

The Senate reconvenes this morning for the first time since its leader Harry Reid was hospitalized for exhaustion in the chamber's final session of last year. (One wonders why, as he certainly wasn't overworked. Indeed the 58 bills passed by our do-nothing Congress in 2013 represented the fewest in its entire history.) Today the august institution returns from recess with a vote on Janet Yellen's nomination to head the Fed its primary order of business at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, improvements are expected in both factory orders for November and December's Institute for Supply Management services index, each out at 10:00 a.m. Regarding specific stocks, expect earnings announcements from Calavo Growers (NASDAQ:CVGW), Park Electrochemical (NYSE:PKE), Sonic Corporation (NASDAQ:SONC), and Zep Inc.(NYSE:ZEP).

Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT): Shares get upgraded to Overweight from Equal-Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Bonanza Creek Energy (NYSE:BCEI): Mizuho moves the stock to Buy from Neutral amid crude oil prices that are expected to remain better than break-even.

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP): Shares are upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James.

DaVita HealthCare (NYSE:DVA): Raymond James raises its rating to Outperform from Market Perform.

Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW): The insurance outfit gets upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL): Shares are moved Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

HSBC Holdings (NYSE:HSBC): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts its fellow financial firm to Buy from Neutral.

McKesson (MCK): The stock is boosted to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James.

Medical Device Makers: Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) and St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) are both upgraded to Overweight from Equal-Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Medtronic (NYSE:MDT): Staying in the sector, JP Morgan moves the stock to Overweight from Neutral.

SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY): It is unbearably cold in much of America at the moment, but Elon Musk still has a hot hand. The Chairman of SolarCity sees his stock boosted to Conviction Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs, which assigns it a price objective of $80. Accordingly, shares are surging some 6.46% as we speak.

Trulia (NYSE:TRLA): TRLA is taken to Outperform from Perform with a $54 target price at RBC Capital, which cites strong secular growth in online real estate.

Tyco International (NYSE:TYC): Credit Suisse boosts the stock to Outperform from Neutral.

Ventas (NYSE:VTR): Shares get upgraded to Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN): Casino company Wynn Resorts, recently trading atop historic highs, is now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

Zillow (NASDAQ:Z): Zillow stock gets upgraded to Outperform from Perform at RBC Capital, which also takes its target price up by $10 to $100. Catalysts include an increasingly compelling valuation.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Amazon 'Sell' Rating Giving Jeff Bezos Kidney Stones and Stock Downgrades: Twitter Bitter About Another Case of the Mondays)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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