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Stock Upgrades: Time to Buy Bank of America

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

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Markets always anticipate, so the Dow (^DJI) got an appropriately early start on Free Pretzel Day. Twisting itself in knots, blue chips gained 41 points, nosedived 90, and ultimately ended up 19.

Gannett (GCI), which earlier this morning announced a 57% increase in first quarter earnings, yesterday advanced 3.04%. Sadly its ex-CEO did not live to see it, the founder of "McPaper" having passed away on Friday. His stock certainly represents far better value than McDonald's (MCD), which followed up last week's 3.54% slide by falling further on an analyst downgrade.

Also sadly leaving us was Richie Havens, best known for singing "Here Comes the Sun." SolarCity (SCTY), up 3.58% at a fresh 52-week peak, proved his words are immortal. And maybe those Brussels bureaucrats aren't entirely allergic to making money after all. Supermarket stock Delhaize Group (DEG) - based in the Belgian capital where the EU's infamous "butter mountains" and "wine lakes" occurred - surged 11.05% to a 17 month high.

Today in economics, March new home sales are reported at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front it's another frenetic session for earnings announcements with Apple Inc. (AAPL), AT&T (T), Broadcom (BRCM), Cree Inc. (CREE), DuPont (DD), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Panera Bread (PNRA), Travelers (TRV), United Technologies (UTX), and Yum Brands (YUM) all due to release results.

American Midstream Partners (AMID): Raymond James lifts the limited partnership to Market Perform from Underperform.

ArcelorMittal (MT): The steel outfit headed by Europe's richest man is now Buy from Neutral at Nomura.

Banco Santander (SAN): UBS increases the Spanish financial firm to Neutral from Sell.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC): Last year's top Dow (^DJI) stock, which has had a tougher time of it thus far in 2013, is moved to Overweight from Equal-Weight at Morgan Stanley. Its price objective also increases, by $3 to $16. Analysts wrote in a note, "BAC is about to deliver on a significant expense reduction over the next several quarters." Shares are, accordingly, up about 1.54% in today's pre-market trading as I write.

Caterpillar (CAT): If the Dow declines today, no one can blame the House of Morgan, for JPMorgan moves the key Dow component to Overweight from Neutral.

Chubb (CB): The stock is raised to Market Perform from Underperform by William Blair.

Columbia Banking (COLB): An increasingly compelling current valuation sees COLB get a Buy-from-Hold hoist with Wunderlich, whose price target also increases by $2 to $25.

Community Health (CYH): Citing the favorable impact of health care reform, Robert W. Baird boosts its recommendation to Outperform from Neutral. Its target price, previously $48, is now $56.

Diamondrock Hospitality (DRH): Baird boosts the stock to Outperform from Neutral with an $11, saying catalysts include non-core asset sales and an upcoming analyst day.

Homebuilders: Barclays gives Overweight-from-Equal Weight lifts to Lennar (LEN), Meritage (MTH), and PulteGroup (PHM). It takes Toll Brothers (TOL) up an unusual 180 degrees, to Overweight from Underweight, and raises Ryland Group (RYL) to Equal Weight from Underweight.

Informatica (INFA): Shares are now Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse.

Invesco (IVZ): The stock is increased to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Morgan Stanley (MS): SunTrust takes its fellow financial firm to Buy from Neutral.

Rosetta Resources (ROSE): The independent oil and gas outfit gets raised to Hold from Sell at Miller Tabak, whose price objective is $42.

South American Airlines: JPMorgan moves Copa Holdings (CPA) to Overweight from Neutral and lifts LATAM Airlines (LFL) to Neutral from Underweight.

Veeco Instruments (VECO): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Perform with a $42 objective at Oppenheimer, which predicts an improvement in orders.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: 'Maxx' Out Your Profits With TJX Companies and Stock Downgrades: Yum Brands Giving Investors Indigestion.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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