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Stock Upgrades: PIIGS Got You Down? Invest Instead in Pork Producer Smithfield Foods


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Shares fell despite the best efforts of House Speaker John Boehner, whose office sent a fiscal cliff letter to President Obama in the afternoon. Remarkably, it arrived later the same day at its destination a few blocks away, no mean feat considering the Postal Service's annual red ink stands at $15.9 billion. If nothing else, the missive massively boosted postage meter king Pitney Bowes (PBI), which surged 4.02% in an otherwise down day.

An analyst upgraded in-favor Volkswagen (VLKAY) as the German car giant reported its best November since 1973. The very next month our 40th Vice President famously said upon being sworn in, "I am a Ford (F), not a Lincoln," but that may now be a distinction without a difference. Netflix (NFLX) ended 6.99% in the red amid increasing doubts about its original programming including Orange Is the New Black, billed as "the story of one woman's time in minimum-security prison." Far better to invest in the real McCoy after Corrections of America (CXW) jumped 3.16% to near a new high.

No top-tier economic data due today, but quarterly earnings announcements are expected out of AutoZone (AZO), Big Lots (BIG), Mattress Firm Holding (MFRM), Oxford Industries (OXM), Pandora Media (P), Powell Industries (POWL), Toll Brothers (TOL), and Vail Resorts (MTN).

Francesca's Holdings (FRAN): Jefferies juices its recommendation to Buy from Hold, sending shares up this morning, on its belief the company's momentum continued into the third quarter. The price objective is also increased, to $38 from $35.

Gold Fields (GFI): Shares get upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Health Net (HNT): HNT is hoisted to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Pandora Media (P): Shares are moved to Neutral from Sell at Goldman Sachs ahead of earnings.

Partner Communications (PTNR): The stock gets a big upgrade, to Buy from Underperform, at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Public Storage (PSA): Cantor Fitzgerald upgrades shares of PSA to Buy from Hold citing high occupancy levels and impressive pricing power.

Renren (RENN): Shares are upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank.

SBA Communications (SBAC): The name is now Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital, which takes its target up to $85 from $71.

Smithfield Foods (NYSE:SFD): The world's largest pork producer gets boosted to Buy from Hold at BB&T Capital.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Dollars in Donuts for Dunkin' and Stock Downgrades: Owner IAC/InterActive Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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