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Stock Upgrades: Nasdaq Parties Like It's 1999

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

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On the day dedicated to a famous irrational number, Wall Street once again embraced irrational exuberance. The Dow (^DJI), at yet another new record, is now up every day in March while S&P 500 (^GSPC) shares stand only a whisker away from one of their own. Meanwhile Nasdaq (NDAQ) - the stock, that is, upgraded this morning - is also partying like it's 1999, even if its underlying index remains miles below its Internet bubble best.

Blue chips are currently on their best run since 1996, way back when Bibi held political power in Israel. He still does some 17 years on, although a pun beloved of Silicon Valley jesters from that era illustrates just how much else has changed. It said, of two erstwhile tech icons, "Netscape and Yahoo (YHOO) have merged to form Netanyahu." (You had to be there.)

Gang Green famously benefited from a guarantee and, on the eve of St. Patrick's Day, similar certainty from the CEO of Men's Wearhouse (MW) sent it awash in an identical sea of green to end up 19.09%. Neanderthals were done in by bug eyes, but the eagle eye of CBS Corp. (CBS) never gets old, even if its average age during the Mike Wallace-Andy Rooney-Morley Safer days often exceeded that of Methuselah. Shares jumped 2.20% to stand at an historic high.

"Tempest in a teapot"? JPMorgan (JPM) provided a port in the storm during Superstorm Sandy, but it is set for some seriously rough weather today. It's a quarterly "quadruple witching" session, which rarely lacks action.

This morning in economics, analysts expect the first take on March consumer confidence from the University of Michigan to come in essentially unchanged at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Brown Shoe Co. (BWS), Carnival Corporation (CCL), Hibbett Sports (HIBB), and Italy's biggest bank, UniCredit S.p.A. (PINK:UNCFF), are all due to release results.

Anglo American Platinum (PINK:AGPPY): The commodity company gets a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade at Goldman Sachs.

ARM Holdings (ARMH): Jefferies juices its recommendation on the key Apple (AAPL) supplier to Buy from Hold. Shares are up nicely in today's London trading as a result.

Best Buy (BBY): Another day, another upgrade for the previously-slumping but now suddenly-resurgent electronics retailer, today the beneficiary of an Outperform-from-Sector Perform boost at RBC Capital.

Capstone Turbine (CPST): Roth Capital moves the microcap to Buy from Neutral.

Emerald Oil (EOX): An upgrade on the eve of St. Patrick's Day for the energy outfit, which will hope to see green screens after getting upgraded to Buy from Neutral at SunTrust.

Freeport-McMoRan (FCX): Goldman gives the copper and gold company a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade.

Infosys (INFY): The Indian outsourcing and Information Technology giant gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Jefferies.

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD): Credit Suisse increases the equity to Outperform from Neutral.

G&K Services (GK): Citing the beneficial impact of an improving economic and employment environment on uniform rentals, Robert W. Baird raises its recommendation to Outperform from Neutral. Its price objective, previously $47, is now $50.

Nasdaq OMX Group (NASDAQ:NDAQ): The exchange operator is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Novartis (NVS): JPMorgan moves the giant Swiss pharmaceutical firm to Overweight from Neutral.

Obagi Medical (OMPI): Shares are hoisted to Buy from Hold at Cantor Fitzgerald, which also increases its target price by $4 to $19 after its earnings beat Street expectations.

Sealed Air (SEE): The Bubble Wrap maker is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Sony (SNE): Daiwa Securities gives its fellow Japanese firm a boost to Buy from Neutral, sending it up 8.01% in today's pre-market trading.

VMware (VMW): S&P Capital IQ takes the tech stock to Buy from Hold.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Money Trees Growing in Forest City and Stock Downgrades: Chuck Schwab Not Making Money Talk Today.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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