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Stock Upgrades: Hugh Grant Eyes Hollywood Ending at Monsanto Company


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

If our Secretary of State will forgive the phrase, investors were for equities yesterday before they were against them. An early advance in Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) quickly evaporated after the market showed no yen for the Kerry trade. A lauded Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) surged 7.72% to top the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) after agreeing to buy a biotech that had previously failed to swoon for it in June. That month is, of course, prime wedding season, but romance is apparently still alive in August. McGraw Hill (NYSE:MHFI) remain, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, as devoted to each other as ever. And Andrew may now take back Fergie, two decades after she played footsie with her "financial adviser." (Not to be confused with London's FTSE (INDEXFTSE:UKX), which was closed yesterday for a British bank holiday.)

Today's economic data includes August consumer sentiment from The Conference Board at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, with consensus calling for a fall from the prior month's pace. In earnings action, Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO), Brown Shoe (NYSE:BWS), Donaldson Company (NYSE:DCI), LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK), Movado (MOV), Sanderson Farms (NASDAQ:SAFM), Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ:TIVO), and Workday (NYSE:WDAY) are all due to report results.

Blackbaud, Inc. (NASDAQ:BLKB): Stifel raises the software stock to Buy from Hold with an increased price objective of $51. Top-line acceleration and consistent margin expansion are projected.

Cimarex Energy Co (NYSE:XEC): The independent oil and gas outfit, which gained 1.86% to a fresh 52-week peak yesterday, is moved to Outperform from Market Perform this morning. Catalysts include capital deployment and opportunities in the Permian Basin. Its price objective, previously $72, increases to $120.

Marks and Spencer Group Plc (LON:MKS): The British retail giant is bucking a broadly lower FTSE 100 Index (INDEXFTSE:UKX) this morning after a Buy-from-Neutral boost by Citigroup. The bank's increased optimism in based on Britain's improving macroeconomic outlook.

Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON): The firm headed by Hugh Grant (not the English actor) gets increased to Buy from Neutral at UBS. Shares of the world's largest seed company advanced 1.49% in yesterday's soft market.

Premier Foods Plc (LON:PFD): Staying in London, this stock is surging some 6.55% today on an upgrade to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse. The target price is also taken higher, to 155 British pence from 100 British pence.

Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd (NYSE:QIHU): Jefferies juices the Chinese Internet firm to Buy from Hold, fresh from Monday's 7.75% earnings-inspired advance.

Ryanair Holdings plc (ADR) (NASDAQ:RYAAY) The budget Irish airline is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Investec.

Safe Bulkers, Inc. (NYSE:SB): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch takes the tanker stock to Buy from Neutral.

Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS): Longbow moves the mattress maker to Buy from Neutral.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: ThyssenKrupp No Longer Such a Steal and New Stock Coverage: Are You Ready for Some Football? DIRECTV Is Just the NFL Sunday Ticket.)
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