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Stock Upgrades: Atlas Energy Finds Favor


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

On the day it was confirmed that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cardiac conditions, plentiful political food for thought out of Italy was enough to give investors a heart attack. Dow Industrials (^DJI) endured their single worst session since November 7, 2012 losing 154 points in last hour alone.

All eyes are on March 1 and the sequester, but April 1 is more relevant for investors in Chesapeake Energy (CHK). That is when its endlessly controversial CEO Aubrey McClendon, who appears to take many shareholders for April Fools, is set to step down. And not a moment too soon, judging by yesterday's 6.78% slide.

Amid a bloodbath in equities, gold scored its biggest gain of the month, and Pan American Silver (PAAS) - clearly stealing a page from the Silver Linings Playbook of Barnes & Noble (BKS), which itself jumped 11.47% - rode an analyst increase to advance 3.98%. Equally ebullient analyst comments allowed Robert Mondavi owner Constellation Brands (STZ) to buck an otherwise awful trading tape by hitting the highest level in its history. No wonder Napa is the happiest place in America.

Today in economics, new home sales for January and February consumer confidence are each expected to tick up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and Fed head Ben Bernanke begins two days of testimony on Capitol Hill. In earnings action, AutoZone (AZO), BASF (PINK:BASFY), DreamWorks Animation (DWA), Edison International (EIX), Gulfport Energy (GPOR), HollyFrontier (HFC), Home Depot (HD), Macy's (M), Priceline (PCLN), RadioShack (RSH), R.R. Donnelley (RRD), Saks Inc. (SKS), TiVo Inc. (TIVO), and Vivendi (PINK:VIVHY) are all due to report results.

Atlas Energy (NYSE:ATLS): Wells Fargo lifts the limited partnership to Outperform from Market Perform amid an impressive growth outlook. Its price objective is now in the range of $48 to $50, up from $35 to $38 previously.

Lufkin Industries (LUFK): Macquarie moves the equity to Outperform from Neutral on account of seasonal and secular demand in the artificial lift market. The target price is also taken to up $75 from $67.

SanDisk (SNDK): Citing the company's transformation into a vertically integrated systems solution provider, RBC Capital raises its recommendation to Outperform from Sector Perform. Its price objective also increases, by $15 to $65.

Supertex (SUPX): Convinced that the firm's new products are proving popular, Stifel Nicolaus gives the shares a Buy-from-Hold boost with a $26 target.

Telefónica (TEF): The Spanish communications company gets a Perform-from-Underperform boost by Sanford Bernstein.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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