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Stock Upgrades: Citigroup Survives an October Surprise

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

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL On an otherwise big up day in equities, the New York Times (NYT) fell 1.56% but still fared far better than its cross-town rival, whose morning edition picked an especially inopportune time to praise Vikram Pandit. Indeed Citigroup (C) chose National Boss Day to effectively fire its own boss, showing a hitherto unknown sense of humor. The bank's funny bone was also evident in its upgrade of Fossil (FOSL), which sent the watchmaker surging 7.31% at almost the exact hour its leader was saying "Now was the right time" to quit.

And on the topic of time, yesterday's presidential town hall debate inevitably turned back the clock to the first one ever to employ the format, when Bush 41 was taken to task for looking at his watch. Kennebunkport, home of his family's summer compound, now has other things on its mind of course.

Hump Day of peak earnings week is upon us, with American Express (AXP), Bank of America (BAC), eBay Inc. (EBAY), and PepsiCo (PEP) among a multitude of big name companies reporting results.

Adtran (ADTN): Goldman Sachs gives the equity a Neutral-from-Sell boost based on an increasingly attractive valuation. Its price objective is $15.80.

BancFirst (BANF): Shares are boosted to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James, which cites strong Q3 results and better revenue growth forecasts. The price target is $48.

Brown & Brown (BRO): BRO is boosted to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette.

Citigroup (NYSE:C) Yesterday's sudden resignation of CEO Vikram Pandit hasn't dulled the stock's appeal for Crédit Agricole, which gives the bank an Outperform-from-Underperform boost. Its price target is $43.

Essex Property Trust (ESS): ESS is increased to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James based on West Coast job growth among other favorable factors.

Fortinet (FTNT): Shares are upgraded to Buy from Hold with Wunderlich, which says valuation has become more compelling after a recent earnings-related sell off.

Murphy Oil (MUR): MUR is moved to Buy from Hold at Brean Capital.

REITs: Raymond James raises Essex Property (NYSE:ESS) and Mid America Apartment (NYSE:MAA) to Strong Buy from Outperform and moves Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR) to Outperform from Market Perform.

Sprint Nextel (S): S is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Argus given the likelihood the Softbank (SFTBY) deal is approved.

Yara International (YARIY): The Norwegian fertilizer firm is now Buy from Reduce at Nomura.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: IBM's Big Blues and New Stock Coverage: Nielsen Tops the Ratings.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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