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Stock Upgrades: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Is on the March

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

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Minutes and centuries made for an awfully dull day. Stocks finished flat, sandwiched in between the FOMC minutes and Ben Bernanke's after-hours address on the Fed's first 100 years. Among standout shares, Family Dollar (FDO) topped S&P 500 (^GSPC) after advancing 7.11%, although it will enjoy 7-11 considerably less after getting downgraded this morning. On Madison Avenue, Omnicom Group (OMC) rose to a fresh all-time best and Lamar Advertising (LAMR) scores a ratings increase today. This on news that hedge funds, those shy retiring types who have hitherto shunned the limelight are now allowed to market their wares. (Paying homage to hermits is surely much more lucrative, however. After all, Howard Hughes (HHC) is now up 84.62% in the past year alone, having hit highest level in its history this week.) Elsewhere, True Religion (TRLG) fell as an analyst advised greater caution, and the Pope of Smithfield Foods (SFD) went to plead his case for the pig processor on Capitol Hill, where they know all about pork.

Today's quarterly earnings announcements are expected to include Bank of The Ozarks (OZRK), Commerce Bancshares (CBSH), Progressive (PGR), and Washington Federal (WAFD).

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the semiconductor stock an unusual 180 degrees, to Buy from Underperform. Game consoles could be potentially drive hardware sales and shares are, accordingly, surging some 6.78% as I write.

Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI): The stock is now Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Associated British Foods plc (ASBFY): Who says the British can't cook? Shares, surging in today's London trading, are taken to Buy from Hold at Panmure.

Bridgepoint Education Inc (BPI): BPI gets increased to Outperform from Market Perform by Barrington Research.

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc (DO): The oil services firm is increased to Market Perform from Underperform by BMO Capital.

Finisar Corporation (FNSR): Shares are now Strong Buy from Buy at Needham, which has come away from meetings with management increasingly confident that the company can executive on its strategy. The price objective, previously $20, increases to $22.

Hess Corp. (HES): JPMorgan moves the oil outfit to Overweight from Equal Weight amid asset divestitures aimed at unleashing as much as $4 billion for shareholders.

KB Home (KBH): The homebuilder is hoisted to Buy from Fair Value with a $23 target price at CRT Capital, which notes per share earnings exceeded its estimates by an impressive amount.

Lamar Advertising Co (LAMR): LAMR gets a Buy-from-Neutral lift at Citigroup.

Palo Alto Networks Inc (PANW): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Sprint Nextel Corporation (S): Deutsche Bank takes the telecom stock, downgraded elsewhere today, to Buy from Hold.

Viacom, Inc. (VIAB): The MTV owner is moved to Market Perform from Underperform by Sanford Bernstein.

Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WEC): The electric utility gets upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Atlantic Equities.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Is the New York Times Company a Paper Tiger? and New Stock Coverage: Amazon.com, Inc.'s Money Tree Appears Utterly Unshakable.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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