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Stock Upgrades: Barbarians Back Off Bill Gates at Microsoft Corporation


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

The Dow (^DJI) dropped for a third straight day after Sandra turned into Cassandra. Comments from the Fed's Ms. Pianalto indicating that the end of easy money is almost at hand sent stocks slumping. Bank of America (BAC) was among blue chips to end under water after being hit with a lawsuit from its activities five years ago. As the Black Eyed Peas opined in Boom Boom Pow, "I'm so 2008." Fergie and Co. went on to complain "You so 2000 and late" but better late than never, and AOL Inc. (AOL) advanced 1.41% after eventually realizing its ill-fated merger with Time Warner (TWX) 10 days into the millennium was so not worth it.

Another hip-hop artist once lamented that it's hard out there for a pimp, and the ex-head of the IMF can today attest how true that is. Mind you, it ain't exactly a bed of roses for Eliot Spitzer's madam, either. Which was why his rival for New York City comptroller Kristin Davis must resort to selling prescription drugs. Alas, her admirable efforts failed to assist an unloved CVS Caremark (CVS), America's largest (legal) provider of such products. Its shares took their two-day tumble to more than 4%. And on the eve of Dustin Hoffman's birthday, C.H. Robinson (CHRW) definitely wasn't trying to seduce him in falling 5.49%.

Today's corporate earnings announcements are expected to include Annie's (BNNY), Beam Inc. (BEAM), Commerzbank (CRZBY), Dean Foods (DF), Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY), Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF), Nestlé (NSRGY), Noodles & Co (NDLS), Nvidia (NVDA), (PCLN), Rio Tinto (RIO), and T-Mobile (TMUS).

Agrium (AGU): The fertilizer firm, which plunged along with industry peers last week, is now Sector Perform from Underperform at National Bank Financial.

Groupon (GRPN): The daily deals website, surging after announcing Q2 earnings, gets upgraded to Neutral from Sell at UBS.

Lowe's (LOW): JPMorgan raises the home improvement retailer to Overweight from Equal Weight with a $52 target price amid greater consistency and improved execution.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): The tech name endured an utterly awful July but it has made a better start to August. Yesterday's top Dow (^DJI) stock is showing further strength before the bell on an Overweight-from-Equal Weight increase at Evercore. An investor day slated for September 9 could provide a boost, the broker believes, and its price objective increases by $3 to $38.

Panera Bread (PNRA): Shares get boosted to Buy from Hold with Wunderlich, which takes its target price up by $12 to $212. Improving sales and operating trends are cited.

Quad/Graphics (QUAD): Shares get upgraded to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

RealD (RLD): Brokerage boutique B. Riley & Co. raises RLD to Buy from Neutral.

SunEdison (SUNE): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the small cap company to Buy from Neutral.

Sun Life (SLF): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Perform by BMO Capital Markets.

Sunoco Logistics (SXL): The stock is upgraded to Accumulate at Tudor Pickering.

Tata Motors (TTM): TTM is taken to Buy from Neutral at Nomura.

Total (TOT): Morgan Stanley takes the European oil stock to Overweight from Equal-Weight.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Nike Inc Jumps to It and Stock Downgrades: Today's Takedown of Tesla Motors Inc Looks Like Road Kill.)
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