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Stock Upgrades: Caterpillar Pays in Peoria

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

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Taking the advice of an iconic sitcom to heart, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) decided that Eight Is Indeed Enough. The index snapped an eight-session winning streak, its best showing in eight years. Eight is a famously fortunate number in China, of course, and Caterpillar's (CAT) luck is certainly in, despite taking a $580 million charge amid "deliberate accounting misconduct" in that country. (Bookkeeping hanky panky in Bejing? Surely not. Next they'll be telling us Athens occasionally fudges its figures.) The pride of Peoria, upgraded this morning, added 1.96% yesterday to best all blue chips.

Sony (SNE), whose James Bond flick Skyfall is now the eighth highest grossing movie in history, jumped 4.93% on a broker boost. The sky does indeed finally appear to be falling in on bonds, with the 10-year Treasury yield puncturing 2% for the first time since April. One famous 007 was left shaken, not stirred, when Daniel Craig suddenly switched to Heineken (PINK:HINKY) but, after it ended up near a new high amid positive research comments, there appears to be little cause for alarm.

Today in economics, January consumer confidence is expected to slip slightly from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, and the Federal Open Market Committee starts its two-day policy meeting on interest rates.

In earnings action, Amazon (AMZN), Boston Scientific (BSX), Corning (GLW), D.R. Horton (DHI), Eli Lilly (LLY), Ford Motor (F), Harley-Davidson (HOG), JetBlue Airways (JBLU), Pfizer (PFE), and US Steel (X) are all due to report results.

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): BMO Capital markets moves the clothing company to Outperform from Market Perform after its channel checks indicated merchandising improvements. The target price is also taken up to $61 from $44.

BRE Properties (BRE): Shares get upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman Sachs.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT): The Peoria-based company, yesterday's top Dow (^DJI) stock, gets upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital Markets this morning. Catalysts include improving global fundamentals and global liquidity. Its price objective is also increased by a considerable $47, to $130.

Ericsson (ERIC): Deutsche Bank boosts the Swedish telecom outfit to Buy from Hold.

Fifth Third (FITB): Wells Fargo raises the regional bank to Outperform from Market Perform.

Homebuilders: KB Home (KBH) and Lennar (LEN) both get Buy-from-Neutral boosts at Compass Point, whose respective price objectives are now $20.50 and $49.50.

Tyson Foods (TSN): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the poultry processor an unusual 180 degrees, to Buy from Underperform.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Cash Registers Stop Ringing at NCR Corp. and New Stock Coverage: Starz Stuck in the Gutter?)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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