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Upgrades & Downgrades: TripAdvisor Told to Take a Hike

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

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They say what happens on Leap Day doesn't count. Ben Bernanke, for whom February 29th always appears to be the kiss of death, certainly hopes so. Four years ago the Fed head said on that date that the U.S. economy, in retrospect already two months into a recession at that point, would be just fine. (Presumably he was peering into rear-view mirrors supplied by Gentex Corp (GNTX), the maker of such products fresh off a 14.44% fall.) Yesterday, dedicated to Sadie Hawkins, what he said in Congressional testimony formerly known as Humphrey-Hawkins was equally wide of the mark if the stock market's subsequent reaction was any indication. The Dow (^DJI), up 51 points ahead of the hearings, ultimately endured its worst day in two weeks, finishing a still-strong month on a downbeat note after the chairman characterized our recovery as "uneven and modest". Porsche (POAHY.PK) employees could see the funny side as they prepared to cash their bonuses but the luxury car company's core clientele of Wall Street saw its own incentive compensation slide 14%. Fear not, for our financiers are expected to take the news with typical good grace. Indeed immediate signs that the 1% are starting to more carefully count their pennies could be seen in a brace of ratings reductions for Coinstar (CSTR), which promptly slid 6.23%. Meanwhile Tiger Woods, for whom remuneration is not an issue, should stick to the day job, as opposed to entertaining thoughts of becoming a Navy SEAL. Especially after Golfsmith International (GOLF) gapped up 9.65% even as an aquatic stock on the Frontline (FRO) fell 4.96%.

Heaven help the baby born yesterday when it comes to gift giving but children's clothing company Carter's Inc (CRI) got a nice present in ending up 11.17% at an all-time high. ITT Corp (ITT) advanced 6.85% to stand at its best level since July 1980, the month Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan in Detroit. Mitt Romney is alas no Ronnie in the eyes of the voters even after winning Michigan and may want to keep quiet about that Staples (SPLS) success after its stock slumped 8.38% on over five times regular volume. First Solar (FSLR) imploded 11.26% to post the S&P 500's (^GSPC) poorest performance on what was a difficult day for the son. And a new study showed kids are increasingly missing out on Mother Nature. Thus it was no surprise to see a 12.16% tumble in DreamWorks Animation (DWA), whose films include Antz, Bee Movie, Chicken Run, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Puss in Boots, Shark Tale, and even Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Leaving its shareholders, in the wise words of one dearly departed Monkee, "without one dollar to spend. But how much baby do we really need?" Today in economics, January construction spending and the Institute for Supply Management's February manufacturing index are each out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front Ahold (AHONY.PK), DineEquity (DIN), Foot Locker (FL), James River Coal (JRCC), Kroger (KR), Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), PC Mall (MALL), Swatch Group (SWGAY.PK), Vivendi (VIVHY.PK), and Wendy's (WEN) are all due to report results.


Initiations:

Asset managers: BlackRock (BLK), Invesco (IVZ) and T. Rowe Price (TROW) are all initiated with Market Performs by Sanford Bernstein, which begins Franklin Resources (BEN) at Outperform.

Business services: MasterCard (MA), Visa (V), VeriFone (PAY), and Western Union (WU) are all new Neutrals at UBS, which begins Buys on both Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and Paychex (PAYX).

Hotel stocks: Cantor Fitzgerald has Holds on Host Hotels (HST), Hyatt Hotels (H), and Starwood Hotels (HOT). It begins Buys on Marriott International (MAR), Ashford Hospitality (AHT), and Wyndham Worldwide (WYN).

Andersons Inc (ANDE): The farm products firm is a fresh Market Perform at BMO Capital.

Liz Claiborne Inc (LIZ): LIZ is launched at an Outperform with Wedbush.

Fusion-io Inc (FIO): Shares are up sharply ahead of the open after Credit Suisse rolled out Outperform rated research.

Furiex Pharmaceuticals (FURX): Cowen & Company resumes coverage at Outperform.

Savient Pharmaceuticals (SVNT): Staying in the sector, SVNT is started with an Outperform by brokers William Blair.

Stryker (SYK): The medical device maker is assigned an Outperform with Wells Fargo.

Uroplasty (UPI): Boutique broker MLV & Co picks up the small cap stock at a Buy and sets it a $5 price target. Favorable factors include a refocused sales force and an imminent upturn in growth from its well-differentiated Urgent PC product.


Upgrades:

IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI): Love in the air for the Match.com owner, upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Atwood Oceanics (ATW): The stock gets a Buy-from-Hold boost at Dahlman Rose, which establishes a target price of $58. Catalysts include 50% EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) growth from the company's newbuild program, and impressive exposure to the favorable deepwater floating rig market.

Denbury Resources (DNR): Sterne Agee gives a Neutral-from-Sell increase to DNR.

Linn Energy (LINE): The equity is increased to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Sonoco Products (SON): Citing a healthy 3.5% dividend yield, brokerage Robert W. Baird raises its recommendation to Outperform from Neutral with a fresh price objective of $38 (up from $34).

LHC Group (LHCG): Deutsche Bank hoists the home health care operator to Buy from Hold.


Downgrades:

Wendy's (WEN): The fast food firm is now Neutral from Buy at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Walgreen (WAG): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the stock to Underperform from Neutral.

TripAdvisor (TRIP): TRIP is taken to Neutral from Buy by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

CME Group (CME): Crédit Agricole cuts the operator of commodity exchanges by an unusual 180 degrees, to Underperform from Outperform. Shares are slipping before the bell as a result.

ADTRAN Inc (ADTN): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal Weight from Overweight.

Aircastle (AYR): FBR Capital cuts the company to Market Perform from Outperform following fourth quarter earnings. In light of its older-than-average fleet relative to peers, performance is more susceptible to the negative impact of higher oil prices as airlines increasingly prefer newer, more fuel efficient options.

Copano Energy (CPNO): Shares are trimmed to Long-term Buy from Buy with a new $40 objective at Hilliard Lyons. Although the current yield remains compelling, near-term price appreciation is seen as limited at current levels.

Protective Life (PL): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the insurance outfit to Underperform from Neutral.

QEP Resources (QEP): The oil and gas outfit is now Underperform from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Summit Hotel (INN): INN is now Neutral from Buy at Janney Montgomery Scott/

SandRidge Energy (SD): Canaccord Genuity slashes the shares to Sell from Hold.

Spreadtrum Communications (SPRD): Shares are now Buy from Strong Buy at Needham on account of an increased risk profile as the company awaits the ramp up of new products amid a more intensive pricing environment in 2012.

Thompson Creek Metals (TC): TC is taken to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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