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Stock Upgrades: Stock Up on Costco

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

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As the moguls of business assemble this morning on the moguls of Davos, there is no sign that stocks are about to slide downhill any time soon. (With the possible exception of Alpine Global Dynamic Dividend Fund (AGD), whose 12.93% tumble propped up all NYSE issues.) The Dow (^DJI) rose for an eighth time in nine sessions, and again the "Rihanna portfolio" outperformed.

Last week, in a nod to her Diamonds, Harry Winston (HWD) surged. Yesterday, paying homage to the singer's Umbrella, Travelers (TRV) - whose symbol is the same - gained 2.06% to an historic high despite getting caught in the Superstorm Sandy deluge. Fellow chanteuse Shakira, celebrating a baby boy this morning, once assured us that Hips Don't Lie. Not so sure about that, if the actions of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) are any indication.

As for Beyoncé, many lost respect after her lips lied at President Obama's inaugural, although the GOP can't afford to be too smug about it. Far better to simply stick with lipstick, especially after Avon (AVP) advanced 3.69%.

No top-tier economic data due today, but Hump Day of peak earnings week is here. Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Amgen (AMGN), Apple (AAPL), F5 Networks (FFIV), General Dynamics (GD), McDonald's (MCD), Netflix (NFLX), Novartis (NVS), SanDisk (SNDK), SAP AG (SAP) Siemens (SI), Unilever (UN), United Technologies (UTX), US Airways (LCC), and WellPoint (WLP) are all due to report results.

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU): Shares are surging in today's European trading after a Neutral-from-Sell increase at Citigroup.

BT Group (BT): Sanford Bernstein moves the British telecom titan to Outperform from Market Perform.

Coal Companies: Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) and Walter Energy (WLT) are each upgraded to Buy from Hold at Dahlman Rose.

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST): The warehouse giant gets upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform by Bernstein, which cites solid top-line growth and stable margins.

DR Horton (DHI): Raymond James juices its rating on the home-builder to Perform from Underperform.

Honda Motor (HMC): The Japanese car company is now Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Incyte (INCY): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Underweight from Equal-Weight.

International Business Machines (IBM): Société Générale moves the Dow (^DJI) member, whose shares are surging 4.10% before the bell, to Hold from Sell. Better than expected 2013 earnings guidance is cited, and its price objective is $201.

Las Vegas Sands (LVS): Compass Point lifts LVS to Neutral from Sell, and also takes its target price up to $18 from $10.50, amid signs that Macau gaming revenues are re-accelerating.

Middleby (MIDD): Saying that their restaurant channel checks indicate an improved capital expenditure outlook for 2013, Robert W. Baird moves MIDD to Outperform from Neutral. Its price objective is also increased, by $18 to $154.

NetSuite (N): Lazard lifts the equity to Buy from Neutral.

Novartis (NVS): The Swiss pharmaceuticals firm, out with earnings today, is now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup, which says that the departure of Dr. Daniel Vasella is seen as shareholder friendly.

Unum Group (UNM): The insurance outfit is upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Verizon Communications (VZ): The Dow component gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Canaccord, which is impressed with its wireless margin expansion, subscriber momentum, and slowing capital expenditures. The target is now $50, up from $47.

Walt Disney (DIS): B. Riley Caris boosts the blue chip to Buy from Neutral and increases its objective to $63 from $51. Catalysts include higher theme park margins, an impressive performance out of ESPN, and strength in filmed entertainment.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Ford Hits a Pothole and New Stock Coverage: Cree Is About to Light It Up.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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