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Stock Upgrades: Autodesk, Inc. Is Sitting Pretty

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

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Nuts to the Squirrels, if I may slightly misquote the Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson movie currently being shot on the streets of Manhattan. The furry creatures, having previously brought Nasdaq (^IXIC) to its knees not once but twice, must now be the prime culprit behind yesterday's mishap. How else to explain a suspiciously well-timed 4.13% surge in John B. Sanfilippo (NASDAQ:JBSS), a purveyor of almonds, pecans, pistachios, and macadamias that calls the tech-heavy index home?

Elsewhere Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) slid 17.67% in easily the S&P 500′s (^GSPC) poorest performance. Its CEO paid a belated price for only pursuing "cool and popular kids." Bad idea, buddy. Jocks and cheerleaders may briefly rule the roost, but life is long and as Bill Gates can tell you, nerds always get revenge in the end. (Geek Squads also ultimately inherit the Earth, if Best Buy's (NYSE:BBY) surging stock is any indication.)

This morning in economics, analysts expect to see a slight slippage in July new home sales at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Ann Inc (NYSE:ANN), Destination XL Group (NASDAQ:DXLG), Foot Locker (NYSE:FL), and Hibbett Sports (NASDAQ:HIBB) are the pick of a quiet Friday for quarterly results.

Ahold (OTCMKTS:AHONY): The Dutch grocery giant, fresh from yesterday's 5.35% jump, gets upgraded to Outperform from Neutral by BNP Paribas.

Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK): B. Riley & Co. boosts the design software stock to Buy from Neutral. Shares gained 1.43% yesterday and are showing additional strength ahead of this morning's opening bell.

CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL): Shares are now Neutral from Reduce at Nomura.

Children's Place (NASDAQ:PLCE): The retailer is taken to Buy from Hold at Topeka after its impressive Q2 earnings.

ExlService (NASDAQ:EXLS): Citing a strong balance sheet, organic revenue growth acceleration, and impressive industry fundamentals, Robert W. Baird raises its recommendation to Outperform from Neutral. Its price objective also increases, by $1 to $34.

ING Groep (NYSE:ING): Shares of the Dutch financial firm are up more than 1% in today's European trading after being moved to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Kirkland's (NASDAQ:KIRK): Wedbush hoists the home furnishings firm, up 10.52% yesterday, to Outperform from Neutral.

Realty Income (NYSE:O): The retail Real Estate Investment Trust is lifted to Outperform from Neutral by Robert W. Baird.

Simon Properties Group (NYSE:SPG): BMO Capital Markets raises the retail REIT to Outperform from Market Perform on account of its "compelling" valuation.

Solar Stocks: Alternative energy equities First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and China's Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) are each taken to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James.

SunEdison (NYSE:SUNE): Needham boosts the stock to Buy from Hold with an $11 target price, saying that its semiconductor business would be worth in excess of $3 per share in any initial public offering.

VMware Inc. (NYSE:VMW): Jefferies juices its investment assessment to Buy from Hold amid high hopes for both license growth and revenue acceleration.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Bull Run Done on Dunkin Brands Group Inc? and Stock Downgrades: Guess?, Inc. Not Dressing Enough Families in Corduroy and Denim.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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