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Stock Upgrades: Sony, Big Back in the '70s, Aims to Reclaim Its American Hustle


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

Hump Day it may have been, but stocks still finished flat as a pancake, with the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) ending up all of 0.002% in a deadly dull session. (Although The Economist, whose most famous cover involved a couple of camels, could probably have come up with something exciting to say about it.) Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) did manage a marginal advance after January new-home sales surprisingly hit their highest point since July 2008. That month Ben Bernanke famously said Fannie Mae (OTCBB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCBB:FMCC) are in "no danger of failing." Well, so much for that one. No wonder our former Fed head is penning a selective-memory memoir -- he has clearly taken a page from Winston Churchill's, he who said "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." Get me rewrite; with Tiny Tim having just joined Goldman Sachs' (NYSE:GS) elevator as an author it's little wonder that bookseller Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) saw its stock surge 4.23%. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) touched a new 14-year best on the day Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) -- which entered the world, as did the tech-heavy index, in 1971 -- rose 1.74% by the time it officially brought trading to a close. (At such lofty levels, neither the stock nor its index is going for a song, a fact for which CNBC will be forever grateful.) And 24 hours after jumping 9.95% to a fresh peak, Martha Stewart (NYSE:MSO) stock got an analyst upgrade. Sometimes, a modest "It's a good thing" is indeed better than the doth-protest-too-much "It will be great!" to quote Bill Gross' recent missive.

Today at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Janet Yellen speaks before the Senate Banking Committee, restarting testimony that was snowed off on February 13. The pace of quarterly earnings announcements picks up again, with retailers coming increasingly to the fore. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS), Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD), and Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) all release results.

Air Products (NYSE:APD): The chemical company is now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup. Its price objective, previously $119, increases to $133.

Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU): Shares, downgraded elsewhere today, are hoisted to Buy from Hold at Stifel, whose target price is $238. The bank has high hopes for Baidu's mobile search franchise, expanding at an impressive clip.

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR): Robert W. Baird raises its recommendation on the alternative energy stock, which nosedived 9.12% on Wednesday, to Outperform from Neutral. It sees the company's upcoming analyst day as a potential catalyst, and also increases its objective by $5 to $67.

Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI): GFI gets increased to Neutral from Underweight at HSBC Securities.

J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP): The beleaguered retail behemoth, rising some 20.47% as we speak after its earnings beat Street expectations, is moved to Market Perform from Underperform with Wells Fargo.

L Brands (NYSE:LB): Buckingham Research raises the owner of Victoria's Secret to Buy from Neutral.

PetroChina (NYSE:PTR): Shares get a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade at Goldman Sachs.

Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL): Another day, another upgrade for the fashion firm, now Buy from Neutral at Goldman.

Sony (NYSE:SNE): The Japanese giant, whose American Hustle is up for a bunch of Oscars on Sunday, must pine for its circa-1979 salad days of the same era. That was the year it invented the Walkman, but can the company recapture the glory days? Citigroup certainly seems to think so, raising its recommendation to Buy from Neutral amid what the bank sees as a viable turnaround plan.

Teekay Corp (NYSE:TK): Shipping stock TK is taken to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Weatherford (NYSE:WFT): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at UBS, which also boosts its price target by $4 to $19.

WellCare (NYSE:WCG): Credit Suisse increases the health plan provider to Outperform from Neutral.

Workday (NYSE:WDAY): After an earnings beat, the stock is moved to Outperform from Perform with a $150 objective at FBR Capital.

See also:

Stock Downgrades: Slap in the North Face for VF Corp (MVPRO article)

New Stock Coverage: Happiness Is a Warm Gun at Urban Outfitters (MVPRO article)
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