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Stock Upgrades: Wall Street Looks to Wal-Mart for Lift


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

The late, great folk singer Pete Seeger was no fan of Wall Street, but yesterday you could have built a mightily impressive long/short portfolio in his honor. "If I had a hammer" pretty much nailed it as the iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (NYSEARCA:ITB) jumped 3.81% on the back of an S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX)-best 9.84% increase in homebuilder D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI). "Where have all the flowers gone?" My friend, they're still here, even in the depths of January, to judge by a 6.60% gain in (NASDAQ:FLWS). And as for "Turn! Turn! Turn!" that is an eerily accurate description of the whipsaw action in Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), which fell 14.45% last week, rose 6.66% on Monday, and tumbled 2.37% on Tuesday. Mr. Seeger's fellow beatniks Peter, Paul, and Mary, meanwhile, were similarly on the money with "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Presumably to some dodgy offshore tax shelter in the Caribbean, where Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) now flies, for that stock's analyst-inspired 3.40% winnings were certainly worth sheltering from the authorities. All this put a mighty wind in the sails of the stock market, with the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) snapping a five-session skid in some style. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), up 2.56%, bested all blue chips. This, despite a 10% plunge in sales of its primary care drugs, mainly on account of stiff generic Viagra competition in Europe. It seems that an aging "Italian stallion," famous for his "bunga bunga" sex parties and a hitherto rich income stream for the pharmaceutical firm, has finally conceded defeat to Old Father Time. Corning (NYSE:GLW) slumped 6.15% after its unfortunately named CFO James Flaws admitted in an interview that the company's weak Gorilla Glass sales were, "A little bit of a surprise." An utterly unloved Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which is all about glass houses, slid 7.99% in sympathy. But Mary Barra, shatterer of glass ceilings at General Motors (NYSE:GM), fared far better under the Capitol dome.

Today in economics, Ben Bernanke concludes his final meeting as head of the Fed at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Anglo American (OTCMKTS:AAUKY), Boeing (NYSE:BA), Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), EMC Corp (NYSE:EMC), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU), Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MRO), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) are all due to release results. Now let's turn to today's analyst upgrades, that includes Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)...

Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO): Goldman Sachs gives the adolescent apparel outfit a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade.

American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL): AAL is now Neutral from Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which also lifts its price objective by $12 to $34.

Bayer (OTCMKTS:BAYRY): Berenberg hoists the aspirin outfit to Buy from Hold.

Cameron International (NYSE:CAM): Shares get a Buy-from-Hold boost at Societe Generale. Its target price, previously $65, increases by $4.

Carrizo Oil & Gas (NASDAQ:CRZO): The stock is now Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse.

CIT Group (NYSE:CIT): Buckingham boosts the small business lender to Buy from Neutral.

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA): EA is moved to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill, whose objective is $36.

Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW): BMO Capital takes ITW to Outperform from Perform, and also lifts its target to $100 from $88.

Interactive Brokers (NASDAQ:IBKR): Shares are increased to Outperform from Perform by Keefe Bruyette.

Sally Beauty (NYSE:SBH): The equity gets upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Tableau Software (NYSE:DATA): Goldman Sachs takes the tech name to Buy from Neutral.

VMware (NYSE:VMW): The stock is raised to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT): The Bentonville behemoth, a key Dow component, is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman Set to Party Like It's 2007

Stock Downgrades: D.R. Horton Hears a Boo After Yesterday's Heroics

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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