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Stock Upgrades: Lowe's Aims High

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

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Europeans, in the week some of their number marched while wearing Nazi uniforms in Greece, were awarded the Nobel Prize for peace. Athens' own Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCH) decamped for Switzerland, although with unemployment in its home country reaching a record 25.1%, one fears surging demand for its products being employed as Molotov cocktails in upcoming austerity riots.

A knife on a bottle, Hellenic or otherwise, was declared the world's nastiest sound by scientists at the University of Newcastle, while coals-to-Newcastle proved a profitable investment strategy as James River Coal (JRCC) jumped 30.2%. And True Religion (TRLG) rose 22.36% even as it was reported that more Americans are losing their religion.

This morning in economics, analysts expect August business inventories to slip slightly at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. The first full week of third quarter earnings season is upon us, with today's results expected to include Brown & Brown (BRO), Charles Schwab (SCHW), Citigroup (C), Gannett (GCI), Packaging Corp. of America (PKG), and WD-40 Co. (WDFC).

Alliant Techsystems (ATK): ATK is upgraded to Outperform from Perform with a $65 target price at FBR Capital, which notes defense companies are raising their dividends and buying back a significant amount of stock.

Clearwire (CLWR): The stock, up 9.9% before the bell, is now Neutral from Underperform at Macquarie.

Costco (COST): COST is moved to Market Perform from Underperform by BMO Capital based on moderating gross margin pressure and favorable expense leverage. The target price is also taken up, to $106 from $75.

Credit Suisse Group (CS): The bank gets a Neutral-from-Underperform boost by BNP Paribas.

IntercontinentalExchange (ICE): ICE is upgraded to Buy from Hold at BGB Securities amid lower regulatory risk.

Intuitive Surgical (ISRG): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan based on favorable trends in general surgery.

Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts the home improvement retailer to Buy from Neutral.

New Oriental Education (EDU): EDU is upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer, which has a $25 price target. Channel checks suggest fundamentals remained intact during the past three months.

Paper & Forest Products: Louisiana-Pacific (LPX) and Weyerhaeuser (WY) are each upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital amid increasingly attractive valuations.

Penn Virginia (PVA): Shares are upgraded to Buy from Neutral at SunTrust, whose target is $7.50.

Realty Income (O): The stock is now Neutral from Sell at UBS based on dividend increases.

SanDisk (SNDK): Shares are increased to Outperform from Neutral with Wedbush.

Sprint (S): Shares, surging before the bell, are hoisted to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies, which takes its target up to $7 from $3.

Titan International (TWI): TWI gets taken to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Transocean (RIG): RIG is raised to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Hasbro's Toy Story Has Unhappy Ending and New Stock Coverage: Is Owning ADT a Cause for Alarm?)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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