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Stock Upgrades: 'LUV' Is in the Air for Southwest Airlines

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

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Peoria proved to be no match for Ankara, alas, as trouble in Turkey and other emerging markets outweighed a 5.94% increase in Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT). The pride of Illinois easily bested both Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) with its performance, but was still powerless to prevent US stock markets from slumping to a six-week low. It was a Manchester United (NYSE:MANU) fanatic who got everyone excited about these suddenly submerging markets, so it seems somehow appropriate that Jim O'Neill should see his beloved soccer side hit a BRIC wall, sliding some 1.60% after getting a stiff kick in the grass. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) fell 1.43% as its Dacomitinib drug failed in two Phase III trials to treat lung cancer. A third Phase III trial, expected in 2015, may yet yield a more favorable outcome, but it will be far too late for the Marlboro man, who just became the fourth such spokesman to die of a smoking-related disease. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which fell 1.65%, once famously confused the German Merck (OTCMKTS:MKGAY) with the American Merck (NYSE:MRK). You definitely didn't want to do that yesterday, with the former nose-diving 9.76% in its worst session since September 2010 even as the latter finished at a fresh best after riding a broker boost to gain 1.06%. Speak of the devil: Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) surged 6.66% after reports that Tim Ramey left to join Post Holdings (NYSE:POST), which owns some 6.4% of the stock. Ramey made his name as an analyst at D.A. Davidson, which William Ackman once erroneously spelled as "Davison." Given that the billionaire scored a near-perfect 1530 on his SATs, that must really make him sic. Not as sick, however, as the 600 people aboard Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL) who needed rescuing after being laid low by diarrhea on the high seas. At least the company is in good health, with its stock having advanced 1.93% after it beat Street estimates by a nickel.

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, the Conference Board's January consumer confidence index is expected to improve from its December 2013 rate when released at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), DuPont (NYSE:DD), Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), Ford (NYSE:F), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Siemens (NYSE:SI), VMware (NASDAQ:VMW), and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) are all due to release results as quarterly reporting season kicks into high gear.

American International Group (NYSE:AIG): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch adds the insurance outfit, poster child for the economic meltdown of 2008, to its US 1 list of favored equities.

ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT): The steel stock is raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital, which says a recent share-price pullback has created a compelling buying opportunity. Its price objective, previously $11, increases to $16.

Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL): The cruise company scores a broker boost, not its first in recent weeks. Today shares are taken to Buy from Hold at Numis.

Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS): Morgan Stanley moves the credit card stock to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE:MLM): Stifel moves MLM to Buy from Hold amid an improving industry environment. Its fresh target price is $125.

Maxim Integrated Products (NASDAQ:MXIM): Shares get an Overweight-from-Equal Weight increase by Barclays.

Mead Johnson Nutrition (NYSE:MJN): Citigroup adds the stock to its US Focus List.

Nucor (NYSE:NUE): The commodity name is a new addition to the US 1 list at Bank of America-Merrill.

Sally Beauty (NYSE:SBH): Sally Beauty stock is boosted to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Sanmina (NASDAQ:SANM): Raymond James raises Sanmina, whose stock is surging some 11.49% as we speak, to Market Perform from Underperform.

Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV): Southwest Airlines is indeed feeling a whole lot of love today, taken to Outperform from Perform at Imperial Capital. Its target price on the stock also increases, to $26 from $17, amid optimism over flight route optimization.

Texas Capital (NASDAQ:TCBI): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at SunTrust.

Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC): Stifel raises its recommendation on the equity to Buy from Hold and establishes a price objective of $69.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Can Crocs Keep Head Above Water?

Stock Downgrades: Rotten Apple on Menu at Cook's Next Dinner With Carl
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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