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Stock Upgrades: Profits Predicted at Oracle

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

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By the time Animal Planet arrived to help us bid goodbye to January in equities, bulls easily bested bears on the month. (Even if markets are suddenly acting more like March, in like lions and out like lambs, for the Dow (^DJI) is now down for two straight days.)

Ironically, even as the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) posted its best start to a year since 1997, previously invincible Apple Inc. (AAPL) was its poorest performing component over the period. 1997 was of course was when Apple was rescued from bankruptcy by Microsoft (MSFT) but the Cupertino company appears to be aging a lot less well than a celebrated train terminal that today turns 100 after being saved from extinction by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. An iconic New York mayor, showing his impeccable sense of timing to the last, lived to see the centenary by two hours.

While Grand Central Station thrives, Grand Theft Auto owner Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) tumbled 6.81%, its shiny new games clearly not catching on. By contrast WMS Industries (WMS), maker of such classic arcade machines as Cheers, jumped 51.19% to best all Nasdaq (^IXIC) issues by a mile. (Although the pint glass is half empty at Anheuser-Busch (BUD), having just endured its worst day for four years.) And Aetna (AET) fell 1.47% and it should prepare for plenty more $66,000 bunion operations after our Senators kicked the can on the debt ceiling debate until mid-May.

Today at 9:55 a.m. Eastern, the University of Michigan releases its final figure for January consumer confidence and at 10:00 a.m. we get both December construction spending and the Institute for Supply Management's January manufacturing data. In earnings action, another frenzied week for fourth-quarter earnings announcements concludes with Chevron (CVX), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Mattel (MAT), Merck (MRK), Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (MTU), Newell Rubbermaid (NWL), and Tyson Foods (TSN) all due to report results.

Audience, Inc. (ADNC): The semiconductor stock is lifted to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank.

BNP Paribas (PINK:BNPQY): Société Générale boosts its fellow French financial firm to Buy from Hold.

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD): On the eve of Sunday's Super Bowl, the game's favorite snack gets upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc. Favorable factors include valuation and unit growth, and its price objective is $85.

Chubb (CB): The insurance outfit, up in today's pre-market trading after its earnings beat Street estimates, is hoisted to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Delhaize Group (DEG): Nomura raises its recommendation to Neutral from Reduce.

Deutsche Bank (DB): The German banking giant is boosted to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

Ericsson (ERIC): The Swedish telecom titan, a strong performer yesterday, is now Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse.

GameStop Piper Jaffray juices the equity to Overweight from Neutral.

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL): Shares are moved to Outperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital Markets, which also increases its target price to $43 from $36. The broker believes top-line growth potential has improved materially amid increasing demand for engineered data appliances.

Verizon (VZ): The Dow (^DJI) member gets upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

WMS Industries (WMS): Goldman gives the slot machine giant, up 51.19% yesterday, a Neutral-from-Sell increase.

Wynn Resorts (WYNN): The casino company is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Blue Nile No Pyramid Scheme and Stock Downgrades: Anheuser-Busch Cries Into Its Beer.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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