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Stock Upgrades: Coca-Cola Set for Nice Pop

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

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The Dow (^DJI) rose for a ninth straight session, something that last occurred on November 15, 1996. That distant day's business headlines blared about how 30-year mortgage rates had fallen to 7.59%; it was indeed an awfully long time ago. So long ago that the just-introduced and not-extinct Palm Pilot was riding high.

BlackBerry (BBRY), which just jumped 8.15%, Apple (AAPL), upgraded this morning, and Samsung (PINK: SSNLF), about to introduce a fancy new phone, should enjoy their present moment in the sun while it lasts. Cause the word from the Filofax graveyard is that it never does. Herbalife (HLF), down 3.62%, endured another Messi day but at least the incomparable Argentine soccer star saw his countryman elected pope. With a lauded Discover Financial Services (DFS) adding on another 2.21% to hit the highest level in its history, the Vatican Bank may however want to reconsider its ban on credit cards.

Today's earnings announcements are due to include Aéropostale (ARO), Deutsche Lufthansa (PINK: DLAKY), Dynegy (DYN), Ulta Salon (ULTA), and Volkswagen (PINK:VLKPY).

Air Lease (AL): Shares get upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Apple (AAPL): Take that, Samsung (PINK:SSNLF)! With its South Korean rival all set to reveal a new Galaxy S phone tonight, the beleaguered Cupertino company gets a timely boost today, taken to Buy from Neutral at BTIG. Diminished expectations and a return to earnings growth are each cited as catalysts, and the price target is $540. The stock is currently trading higher in the pre-market.

ArcelorMittal (MT): The steel stock is now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

Avon Products (AVP): Stifel hoists the cosmetics company to Buy from Hold.

Boston Private Financial (BPFH): Jefferies juices its recommendation to Buy from Hold.

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ): Shares are hoisted to Buy from Hold with a $38 price objective at Stifel, which highlights improving production volumes.

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO): The key Dow (^DJI) component is upgraded to Outperform from Underperform at Crédit Agricole, which cites its stellar brand amid an improving economic climate. The price objective moves to $43 from $41.

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCH): The Athens outfit is boosted to Equal Weight from Underweight by Barclays.

eBay Inc. (EBAY): Evercore upgrades the recently slumping stock to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Johnson Controls (JCI): Shares get a Buy-from-Outperform increase at Crédit Agricole, which came away from management meetings convinced that the company now has a greater focus. The target is also taken up, to $50 from $36.

Sasol Ltd. (SSL): Citigroup slashes the South African energy name to Neutral from Buy.

Sigma Designs (SIGM): The stock is now Buy from Hold at Needham, whose target is $6 on a firm it says is delivering impressively on its cost cutting efforts. Shares are surging more than 6% in today's pre-market trading.

VMware (VMW): Highlighting the tech firm's improving revenues and margin expansion, RBC Capital raises its recommendation to Outperform from Sector Perform. Its price objective, previously $90, is now $110.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: JC Penney Might Be Worth a Wooden Nickel After All and Stock Downgrades: Analyst Throws the Book at Amazon.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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