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Stock Upgrades: Don't Throw Bebe Out With the Bath Water

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

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On a day Google's (GOOG) doodle honored the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, who was born in abject poverty and died in Beverly Hills, the stock market threatened to journey in the opposite direction. Early strength evaporated in the afternoon and, while shares still ended up, the singer was wise to warn us that "spring can really hang you up the most"; it certainly has for the past three years on Wall Street.

Wednesday saw the telecom sector suffer its single worst session since August of 2011 but Alexander Graham Bell's ass-kicking from beyond the grave - even in the afterlife, Scots hate losing money - saw the group gain 1.7% to best all industries. Elsewhere a coach in Germany said beating his rival from Spain, rock bottom of the PIIGS with a 27.16% unemployment rate, was like "Robin Hood robbing from the wealthy." Which, coming from a citizen of Europe's richest economy, really is a bit rich.

Today in economics, consensus says April's University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey will show an improvement at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. Peak earnings week concludes with announcements expected out of Alcatel-Lucent(ALU), Burger King (BKW), Chevron (CVX), DR Horton (DHI), Goodyear Tire (GT), Honda Motor (HMC), LyondellBasell (LYB), Total SA (TOT), Tyco International (TYC), VF Corporation (VFC), and WellPoint (WLP).

AFLAC (AFL): Shares are upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Aixtron (AIXG): The name is now Market Perform from Underperform with a new price objective of $13 at Northland Capital.

Allscripts-Misys Healthcare (MDRX): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Overweight from Equal-Weight.

AXIS Capital (AXS): The rating gets raised to Outperform from Perform at Raymond James.

Bebe Stores (NASDAQ:BEBE): The retailer, up an impressive 3.89% yesterday although still seriously under water over the past year, gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Janney. The target price also increases substantially, to $7 from $4. Catalysts include new management, better products, and improving inventory control.

Boeing (BA): The Dow (^DJI) member is upgraded to Buy from Hold at BB&T Capital Mkts.

Boston Scientific (BSX): The medical device maker is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Cameron International (CAM): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Raymond James.

Commercial Metals (CMC): Jefferies juices its rating to Buy from Hold.

Daimler (PINK:DDAIF): The Mercedes-Benz owner gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Deutsche Bank.

Facebook (FB): Citing optimism over new ads and mobile efforts, Raymond James raises its rating to Strong Buy from Outperform. As a result, shares are up 2.07% as I write.

Lender Processing (LPS): LPS is lifted to Outperform from Perform with a $36 target at Oppenheimer, which says cash could soon start to be returned to shareholders.

LogMeIn (LOGM): Cowen raises its opinion to Outperform from Market Perform.

PennyMac Mortgage (PMT): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Keefe Bruyette.

PulteGroup (PHM): The stock is hoisted to Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Sony (SNE): SNE is upgraded to Buy from Underperform at Credit Agricole.

SunPower (SPWR): The stock is now Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which takes its target to $16 from $10 amid impressive cost reduction initiatives.

Unilever (UN): The consumer products giant, whose brands include Ben & Jerry's, Lipton, and Vaseline, gets upgraded to Hold from Sell at Société Générale.

Unisys (UIS): Shares are now Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: TherapeuticsMD Is Just What the Doctor Ordered and Stock Downgrades: Anheuser-Busch Set for Friday Night Hangover.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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