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Stock Upgrades: You're in Good Hands With Allstate


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

The week started with a climb up Cyprus Hill, focused on the Fed for Hump Day, and ended with an avalanche in the Rockies, so it figures that the market would finish essentially flat when it was all over. Not that there weren't mountainous walls of worries.

Iron ore outfit Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) slid another 6% and is now down 46% in 2013 alone, enduring almost as troubled a time of it as Germany's Iron Chancellor. With Nicosia now on a perpetual bank holiday from history, vacation play HomeAway (AWAY) surged 9.2%. While the island told the outside world to talk to the hand, Apple Inc. (AAPL) advanced 4.1% on high hopes for its wrist, a CEO said farewell to ARM Holdings (ARMH), sending it down 4.3%, BlackBerry (BBRY) got a thumbs up before this morning's tumble, and a finger phone failed to save Samsung Electronics (PINK: SSNLF), which slid 1.7%.

It's a second straight session without any top-tier economic data, but earnings action includes Apollo Group (APOL), Dollar General (DG), Focus Media (FMCN), JA Solar (JASO), and Sonic Corporation (SONC).

Array Biopharma (ARRY): Piper Jaffray juices its rating to Overweight from Neutral.

CNOOC Ltd. (CEO): China's oil giant is hoisted to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies and to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Darden Restaurants (DRI): The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which finished 1.35% higher on Friday following a well received earnings release, is raised to Overweight from Equal Weight at Stephens.

Endocyte (ECYT): Robert W. Baird raises its recommendation on the drug stock to Outperform from Neutral. Vintafolide data should serve as a stock catalyst and the price objective, previously $9, is now $13.

Property & Casualty Insurance: Allstate (NYSE:ALL): is increased to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs, which boosts WR Berkley (NYSE:WRB) to Neutral from Sell.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS): Goldman Sachs gives its fellow financial firm a Neutral-from-Sell upgrade.

Saul Centers (BFS): Citing both general shopping center outperformance and its specific Van Ness redevelopment project, Robert Baird
raises the retail Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to Outperform from Neutral. The target price is also taken up by $2, to $48.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Shutterfly Stock Picture Perfect and Stock Downgrades: Cash Is Not JC Penney's Middle Name.)

Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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