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Stock Upgrades: Intel Corporation Tries to Rise From Silicon Valley to Mountain Top

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

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Capitalism did admittedly have a terrible time of it, as the S&P 500 (^GSPC) endured its second worst week all year. Yet, when Vietnam must resort to offering courses on Marxism-Leninism for free to tempt its communist-averse students, it is clear that Winston Churchill's comments on democracy also apply to the free market. Namely, "It's the worst... except for all the others."

Equities slumped as Wall Street said, "Talk to the hand," and Red China gave stocks the fat finger. Amid the malaise, some shares did prove profitable. Apple Inc. (AAPL) advanced 11% for its best showing in almost two years, its stock soaring even as a film about its founder predictably bombed. August is, after all, where Hollywood has historically unloaded all its schlock... Snakes on a Plane, anyone? (Actually - and with apologies to Orville Wright on this his birthday - that flick was still a lot less scary than last week's 14% fall in US Airways (LCC)).

A new studied showed that people who have more sex make more money. If all you want is a kiss and a cuddle, however, fear not: XO Group Inc. (XOXO), née The Knot, surged some 7.05%. Stun gun maker Taser (TASR) also bucked a torrid tape with an 18% increase. If only we'd taken that young man's eerily prescient advice in the autumn of 2007 - 'Don't Tase Me, Lehman Bro" - think how much healthier our financial system would be now.

There isn't any top-tier economic data due today, but earnings announcements are expected out of Bob Evans Farms (BOBE), Cellcom Israel (CEL), and Urban Outfitters (URBN).

American Midstream Partners (AMID): The limited partnership is lifted to Outperform from Perform with Wells Fargo.

Dollar General (DG): JPMorgan raises the discount retailer to Overweight from Neutral. More sustainable earnings growth is expected.

Gerdau (GGB): HSBC Securities hoists the steel stock to Overweight from Neutral.

Harvest Natural Resources (HNR): The stock, which surged 7.65% on Friday even as equities were finishing an awful week, gets hoisted to Buy from Hold at Wunderlich. Catalysts include the company's assets in Gabon and Indonesia. Its price objective, previously $4.75, is now $9.00.

Huntsman (HUN): Macquarie moves the chemicals company to Outperform from Neutral.

Intel Corporation (INTC): The semiconductor stock and key Dow (^DJI) component, which has slid 17.58% in the past year amid persistent PC weakness, is increased to Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray. A corporate refresh cycle, however limited, could prove catalytic in the broker's estimation. Shares are currently edging up in today's pre-market trading as a result.

Kaiser Aluminum (KALU): Sterne Agee raises its investment opinion to Buy from Neutral.

Mid-Con Energy Partners (MCEP): Robert W. Baird lifts the limited partnership to Outperform from Neutral with a $26 target price, saying it is a good way to play the geopolitics currently surrounding surging crude oil prices.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH): UBS raises its recommendation on the cruise company to Buy from Neutral.

Public Storage (PSA): RBC Capital raises the real estate investment trust to Sector Perform from Underperform.

PulteGroup (PHM): The homebuilder, up 3.9% in last week's miserable market, is this morning hoisted to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo amid a "compelling" current valuation.

Timmins Gold (TGD): Cowen takes small cap Canadian commodity company TGD to Outperform from Market Perform amid an increasingly compelling valuation with bullion trading close to an eight-week peak.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: No Indian Summer at Apache Corporation and New Stock Coverage: Will Today's Trading Be Murder on Orient-Express Hotels Ltd.?)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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