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Stock Upgrades: Say Yes to Nokia Corporation

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

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While hedge fund philistines were obsessing over their inflatable white swans inside Hamptons hedgerows, black swans were busy gathering on Wall Street. The S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) endured its worst month since May 2012 as Syrian concerns multiplied. An awful August notwithstanding, stocks were essentially flat from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That sounds boring, but Square might be the better word, with issues involving Tahrir, Taksim, and Pershing proving a blot on the season.

With much of the world in crisis, peripheral European bourses actually posted strong performances last month. Hermès (OTCMKTS:HESAY) continues to make silk purses out of PIIGS ears, up 2.28% on Friday after reporting an almost 15% increase in operating profit. This as Spain, in an intractable economic crisis, just spent $132 million on a soccer player. (A fellow fútbol star whose name perfectly sums up the continent's current financial situation was bought for far less.)

Today in economics, analysts expect August's Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index to soften from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) is due to report quarterly results.

Apache Corporation (NYSE:APA): Mizuho moves the energy outfit to Buy from Neutral after a deal to sell of 33% of its Egyptian assets for $3.1 billion. The amended price objective is $100.

Associated British Foods (OTCMKTS:ASBFY): BNP Paribas boosts the English equity to Outperform from Underperform.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T): The telecom name, a key Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) component, is now Neutral from Underperform at Macquarie.

Cerner (NASDAQ:CERN): Shares are lifted to Outperform from Market Perform at Leerink Swann.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE:CCE): Impressed with the company's risk/reward profile, Goldman Sachs adds the stock to its list of Conviction Buys.

Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ): The world's largest winemaker is moved to Buy from Neutral at Goldman, which lauds its growing profit margins and volumes.

Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at Janney, which also takes its target price up by $2 to $26. An improving product pipeline and more measured capital allocation program are each cited.

Delhaize Group (NYSE:DEG): UBS boosts the Belgian grocery giant to Buy from Neutral.

Green Dot (NYSE:GDOT): Citing its increased estimates and material margin expansion, Compass Point raises its rating to Buy from Neutral. The price objective, previously $26, is now $30.

Hotel Stocks: Strategic Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:BEE) and Sunstone Hotel (NYSE:SHO) each get upgraded to Strong Buy from Buy at ISI Group.

Key Energy (NYSE:KEG): The oil and gas outfit gets upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Nokia (NYSE:NOK): The telecom titan from Finland, whose shares are surging some 40% this morning after selling its handset business to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) for $7.2 billion, gets upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank and to Market Perform from Underperform by Sanford Bernstein.

Owens-Illinois (NYSE:OI): Shares are moved to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Ryder System (NYSE:R): The yellow truck titan is taken to Buy from Neutral at Buckingham Research.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ): The Dow member is now Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD): Sanford Bernstein increases its investment assessment to Market Perform from Underperform. (Note that shares were downgraded elsewhere this morning.)

WPP Group (NASDAQ:WPPGY): The world's largest advertising firm, which hit its highest level since March 2000 on Monday, today gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Deutsche Bank.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Coca-Cola Carries the Can and New Stock Coverage: Nasdaq Tries to Turn Over a New Leaf.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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