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Stock Upgrades: Pucker Up to Avon Products

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

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"Money Can't Buy Me Love," sang four lads from Liverpool. Maybe not, but it sure helps, especially for any prospective purchaser of Manchester United (MANU), the soccer side from another northwestern English city which is suddenly enamored on this side of the Atlantic.

Investors continued their infatuation with equities and if, ahead of Valentine's Day, Love's Libor's Lost at Barclays (BCS), the British bank won't give a hoot after it jumped 9.13% to near a two-year high. If any errant husbands have lipstick on their collar, it likely came from an illicit evening at Rick's Cabaret (RICK), which surged 6.12%. Although the Avon (AVP) lady - upgraded this morning after skyrocketing 20.31% yesterday - can't entirely be ruled out as a culprit.

Today in economics, December business inventories are due out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Avis Budget (CAR), Cisco Systems (CSCO), Deere (DE), EOG Resources (EOG), Lorillard (LO), MetLife (MET), NetApp (NTAP), Société Générale (PINK:SCGLY), Whole Foods (WFM), and Zillow (Z) are all expected to release results.

Avon Products (NYSE:AVP): The lipstick and cosmetics company, yesterday's top stock on both the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) and NYSE with a 20.31% increase, is today taken to Neutral from Sell at UBS. The execution and strategy of its new management credited, UBS' price objective increases to $21 from $13. Brokerage B. Riley Caris also raises its rating, to Buy from Neutral with a higher target of $26. It approvingly notes that 75% of sales are now derived from fast-growing emerging markets.

Comcast (CMCSA): Credit Suisse upgrades the cable company, surging some 7.83% before this morning's opening bell, to Outperform from Neutral. The acquisition of NBC Universal is seen as a catalyst, and the price objective goes to $48 from $40.

Groupon (GRPN): GRPN gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Sterne Agee, sending it up 6.81% this morning. Its analysts wrote in a note that "we believe the risks are well known and largely priced in."

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD): Wedbush increases the equity to Neutral from Underperform.

Molina Healthcare (MOH): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch moves the stock to Buy from Neutral.

Navios Maritime Acquisition (NNA): Shares are now Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Philip Morris International (PM): Nomura takes the tobacco titan to Neutral from Reduce. Its price objective is $94.80.

Protective Life (PL): The life insurance outfit is lifted to Neutral from Underperform by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

UTI Worldwide (UTIW): Jefferies juices its recommendation to Buy from Hold.

Western Union (WU): Shares are moved to Underperform from Sell with a $15 target at Crédit Agricole.

Zimmer Holdings (ZMH): Argus hoists the medical device maker to Buy from Hold with a $90 price objective amid higher surgical volumes and benefits arising from its upcoming Persona knee debut.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Red Ink at Red Lobster Owner Darden Restaurants and Stock Downgrades: Ketchup King Heinz Can't Cut the Mustard.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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