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Stock Upgrades: Disney Turning 'Iron Man' Into Box Office Gold

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

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Even the bombshell announcement that Fed head Ben Bernanke will skip the Jackson Hole symposium was powerless to prevent stocks scoring strong weekly gains. (Perhaps Wall Street's animal spirits were lifted because the Reuters article was written by a man named Bull, which is actually an equally good description of the erroneous item attributed to its chief competitor Associated Press.)

It was a good week for Apple and Moses, whose mother Gwyneth Paltrow was voted People Magazine's most beautiful person, and not a bad one for Apple Inc. (AAPL) and tablets, with the tech firm gaining 6.8% after announcing its iPad sales in China were up 138%.

Avanir Pharmaceuticals (AVNR) jumped 2.81% on Friday after a European regulator looked favorably upon its product Neudexta to treat sudden uncontrollable laughing or crying. The continent was itself caught between mirth over its stocks surging by the most all year, and sorrow as pain in Spain now starts to negatively impact even erstwhile economic titan Germany.

Today in economics, March pending home sales are forecast to show a pick up from February's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, it's another frenzied week for first quarter earnings with announcements expected out of AVEO Pharmaceuticals (AVEO), Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), Deutsche Börse (PINK:DBOEY), Express Scripts (ESRX), Herbalife (HLF), J&J Snack Foods (JJSF), Loews Corporation (L), Masco (MAS), Newmont Mining (NEM), and Riverbed Technology (RVBD).

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): Macquarie moves the cult teen clothing company to Outperform from Neutral amid optimism over its profit margins.

Anglo American (PINK:AAUKY): The miner is now Neutral from Reduce at Nomura.

ArcelorMittal (MT): ING Groep gives the steel stock a Buy-from-Hold hoist.

FLIR Systems (FLIR): Shares are upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan.

Harmony Gold (HMY): HMY gets upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

HTC Corporation (PINK:HTCKF): Robert W. Baird takes the Taiwan technology company to Outperform from Neutral.

J. Sainsbury plc (PINK: JSAIY): The English grocery giant is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Lifepoint Hospitals (LPNT): LPNT gets lifted to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

L'Oréal (PINK:LRLCY): Société Générale boosts the French cosmetics company to Buy from Hold.

Marathon Oil (MRO): Barclays boosts the energy outfit to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Petróleo Brasileiro (PBR): The oil giant better known as Petrobras gets moved to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill, sending it up nicely before this morning's opening bell.

SunTrust Banks (STI): Shares are moved to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital, which also lifts its target price by $7 to $37. The company appears to be working through its prior legacy issues and resolving credit concerns.

Tenet Healthcare (THC): The stock is now Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which also increases its price objective up to $51 from $44. More reimbursement money may flow its way from the Medicare DSH (Disproportionate Share Hospital) provision this year.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS): UBS increases the key Dow (^DJI) component, whose Iron Man 3 earned $195.3 million this weekend to top the international box office, to Buy from Neutral. Shares are up 42.72% in the past year having hit an historic high on Wednesday, and UBS notes that the Mouse House is in the early innings of an acquisition-inspired long term earnings growth cycle.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Madison Square Garden Coming Up Roses and Stock Downgrades: Leap Wireless About to Take Big Step Back.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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