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Stock Upgrades: Best Buy a Screaming Buy?


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

Markets ended mostly higher last week and, if the gains were minor, any advance wasn't to be sneezed at given that we just endured everything apart from locusts. (The first resignation of a Pope since the 1400s, meteors, asteroids, and a radioactive stew thrown in for good measure.) Romantic corporate unions were clearly swept up in the spirit of Valentine's Day, with merger activity reaching its highest since 2005.

H.J. Heinz (HNZ), famous for its "57 Varieties" (or one for each state of the union, according to President Obama) was the subject of a $28 billion buyout bid involving Warren Buffett. Omaha's oracle famously said of the aviation industry in 2007 that "if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down." American Airlines and US Airways (LCC) clearly never got the memo, as they unveiled an $11 billion merger of their own. Eve once tempted Adam with an Apple Inc. (AAPL), but that approach was found wanting on this February 14, for the stock slumped another 3.7% and has now tumbled 15% in 2013 alone.

No top-tier economic data due today, but earnings announcements are expected out of Allscripts Healthcare (MDRX), Analog Devices (ADI), CF Industries (CF), Dell Inc. (DELL), Deutsche Börse (PINK:DBOEY), Express Scripts ESRX), Fidelity National Financial (FNF), Herbalife (HLF), Marriott International (MAR), Medtronic (MDT), Newfield Exploration (NFX), Northeast Utilities (NU), Sealed Air (SEE), Terex (TEX), and Westlake Chemical (WLK).

3M Company (MMM): The Dow (^DJI) member is added to Bank of America-Merrill Lynch's US 1 List of favored equities.

ArcelorMittal (MT): The steel stock is raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) Barclays raises its rating to Overweight from Equal Weight, sending the stock up smartly in today's pre-market trading. "We are confident that management will work to defend share," analyst Alan Rifkin wrote in a note.

Charles River Laboratories (CRL): The biotech gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Jefferies.

Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF): JPMorgan moves the stock, an horrific performer last week, to Overweight from Neutral.

Comstock (CRK): BMO Capital upgrades the equity to Outperform from Market Perform.

Cypress Semiconductor (CY): CY is now Buy from Hold at Needham, whose price objective is $13.

Deutsche Lufthansa (PINK:DLAKY): The airline is lifted to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Forum Energy Technologies (FET): Shares are taken to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital, which also increases its price objective to $35 from $30. The firm stands poised to benefit from an expansion of subsea developments worldwide.

Gilead Sciences (GILD): GILD gets an Outperform-from-Neutral lift at Credit Suisse.

GNC Holdings (GNC): The vitamin seller gets upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Halliburton (HAL): HAL is hosted to Overweight from Equal Weight at Stephens, which expects increased margins on account of drilling efficiencies. Its price target on the oil services outfit is now $56, up from $44.

Lufkin Industries (LUFK): LUFK is lifted to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

MGM Resorts (MGM): Shares are moved to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital, which also takes its target price up by $3 to $16. Regaining its New Jersey gaming license may prove to be catalytic.

Michael Kors (KORS): The recently surging fashion retailer is up another 1.2% before the bell after being added to Citigroup's list of Top Picks Live.

PNM Resources (PNM): Jefferies juices the utility to Buy from Hold.

Power-One (PWER): Raymond James raises its recommendation to Strong Buy from Outperform.

Peugot (PINK: PEUGY) Goldman Sachs increases the French car company to Neutral from Sell.

Realty Income (O): The retail Real Estate Investment Trust gets moved to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Statoil (STO): The overseas energy giant is now Neutral from Underweight with HSBC Securities.

The Fresh Market (TFM): Goldman gives the grocer a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade.

VF Corp (VFC): Shares are taken to Buy from Neutral at DA Davidson.

Xilinx (XLNX): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the tech name to Buy from Neutral.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Tesco Stock Surprisingly Stable After Horse Meat Scandal and Stock Downgrades: No Ka-Ching for Coinstar.)
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