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Stock Upgrades: Comedy Central Owner Viacom Laughing All The Way to the Bank


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

On May Day - officially International Workers' Day, to give the date a $10 title it can currently ill afford - Karl Marx must have enjoyed thumbing his nose at capitalism so spectacularly. Amid worldwide austerity riots, the Dow (^DJI) dropped by triple digits, yet mammon still had the last laugh.

You see, an equity analyst chose yesterday of all days to begin a bullish "Buy" recommendation on the planet's most expensive stock, whose Street coverage is almost non-existent. Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) Warren Buffett, 82, and Charlie Thomas Munger, 89, are of course mere whippersnappers compared to Sumner Redstone. The Executive Chairman of Viacom (VIAB) enters his 90th year this month, with his stock having just jumped 2.98% to an historic high ahead of this morning's upgrade.

Facebook (FB), up impressively after-hours, showed that youth shall also be served, however. Its CEO is a wunderkind, a wonderful German word although, where the Fatherland is concerned, the social network really shouldn't go there. "Go west, young man" proved equally profitable for Western Union (WU) - up 5.60% to top the S&P 500 (^GSPC) - and West Corp (WSTC), which rode bullish research to rise 3.81%. Alas, for the old who would like to look young, Botox maker Allergan (AGN) imploded 13.10% in its steepest slide since 1999.

We're now more than two-thirds of way through earnings season, but key results continue to roll in. Among today's standouts are American International Group (AIG), British Sky Broadcasting (PINK:BSYBY), General Motors (GM), Gilead Sciences (GILD), Kellogg (K), Kraft Foods (KRFT), LinkedIn (LNKD), Monster Worldwide (MWW), Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), and Sanofi-Aventis (SNY).

Allergan (AGN): Lazard lifts the Botox maker to Buy from Neutral after yesterday's steep slide.

AmBev (ABV) The Brazilian brewer, officially known as Companhia de Bebidas das Américas, is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities. Its price objective is $49.

Arch Coal (ACI): Shares are up this morning on an upgrade to Equal-Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley.

Commvault Systems (CVLT): The data-storage software stock is trading higher as I write on an Overweight-from-Neutral upgrade at Piper Jaffray.

EZCORP, Inc. (EZPW): The pawnbroker, which rose an impressive 6.69% on Wednesday, is this morning moved to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Genesee & Wyoming (GWR): Raymond James raises the railroad operator to Strong Buy from Outperform.

Infineon (PINK:IFNNY): Shares get upgraded to Buy from Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Invesco (IVZ): IVZ gets increased to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Nabors Industries (NBR): NBR is now Hold from Underperform at Jefferies.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN): The stock, a stellar performer yesterday, is this morning moved to Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities.

Seagate Technology (STX): Shares are upgraded to Buy from Hold with a $45 target at Needham, which notes an impressive quarter and strong cash flow.

Staar Surgical (STAA): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Stephens.

Tractor Supply (TSCO): Janney Capital takes TSCO to Buy from Neutral.

US Silica (SLCA): Jefferies juices its rating to Buy from Hold.

Viacom (NASDAQ:VIAB): The owner of MTV and Paramount Pictures is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Wunderlich. Its target is also taken up to $80 from $72 amid a solid network and studio outlook and $2.8 billion in proposed buybacks.

Yelp Inc. (YELP): Shares, up sharply this morning, are moved to Market Perform from Underperform at Northland Securities. The target goes to $27 from $16.50 following a strong quarter.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: T-Mobile Gets Lukewarm Reception and Stock Downgrades: MasterCard No Longer Quite So 'Priceless.')
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