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Upgrades & Downgrades: Whole Foods Plumps Up


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

Sleep awareness week is over but yesterday, with America still struggling to come to terms with losing an hour's slumber on Sunday, the stock market served us up an antidote to insomnia. Amid the year's lightest volume and 2012′s lowest volatility, the Dow's (^DJI) 56.38 point range was its narrowest since April 4, 2011 while S&P 500 (^GSPC) shares edged up less than 0.1%. Investors dared to be boring, with defensive sectors such as telecoms, utilities, and consumer staples to the forefront as they have been thus far throughout the month of March. Still, the stuff-money-in-mattresses mindset was certainly good for you, Sealy (ZZ), the bedding behemoth surging some 5.68%. That the Dow actually managed to advance for a fourth straight day was especially impressive in light of China's trade deficit coming in over six times worse than estimates, a reminder that - financially at least - the East is the Wild West when it comes to accurate forecasts. As of now the country can only dream of our slowing yet still extremely impressive worker productivity announced last week. (Although if a similar report was released yesterday, sandwiched in between not one but two enormous drains on American output, its results would no doubt have been a lot less impressive.)

Elsewhere prime PIIG Italy is officially in recession but Harley-Davidson (HOG) rose 2.62% to hit its highest level since our own economy rode off into the sunset in December 2007. H&R Block (HRB) gained 2.20%; good luck cashing in any time soon. Dublin-based mobile phone marketing company Velti (VELT) jumped 27.19%, the 12-year old outfit making up for lost time. After all, cell phones have been around for eighty-odd years, according to one Irishman. He must have gotten an early start on St. Paddy's Day - Guinness maker Diageo (DEO) did after all advance to an all-time peak yesterday. Goldman Sachs (GS), whose glitzy new headquarters overlook an Irish hunger memorial, upgraded Hershey Foods (HSY), sending their shares 1.80% higher. Merrill Lynch (BAC) is Goldman's downtown neighbor, and its analyst sent anti-obesity outfit Orexigen (OREX) up 18.65% after similarly raising the recommendation. Alas rival Vivus Inc (VVUS), which recently rose 84.6% in one week, slumped 1.98%. The biotech doesn't appear to have legs, unlike an increasingly anorexic Angelina, who is in absolutely no need of its product anyway. As for husband Brad, he won't want to spend Seven Years in Tibet Pharmaceuticals (TBET) ever again, after that stock slid 7.32%. Today in economics, the Fed will announce its decision on interest rates at 2:15 p.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, American Resources (REX), BMW Group (BAMXY.PK), FactSet Data Systems (FDS), Francesca's Holdings (RAN), Medifast (MED), and SciClone Pharmaceuticals (SCLN) are all due to release results.


Supermarkets/Grocers: Whole Foods (WFM) ($100 price objective) and Fresh Market (TFM) are both begun with Buys at UBS, which starts Sells on Safeway (SWY) ($20 target price) and SUPERVALU (SVU). It has new Neutrals on Kroger (KR) and United Natural Foods (UNFI).

Oil States International (OIS): Barclays begins an Overweight on OIS.

IPC The Hospitalist Company (IPCM): Shares are started with a Buy at Citigroup.

ASML Holding (ASML): RBC Capital resumes coverage at Outperform.

AVG Technologies (AVG): AVG is initiated with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, and an Outperform at JMP Securities.

AVEO Pharmaceuticals (AVEO): BMO Capital begins at a Market Perform.

Covanta (CVA): CVA is assigned a Buy and $20 target at KeyBanc Capital, which cites abundant and predictable free cash flow, moderating headwinds and an attractive valuation.

Covidien (COV): The stock is a new Outperform with brokers William Blair.

Matador Resources (MTDR): MTDR gets picked up with a Buy at Jefferies and is a new Neutral at Citi.

Healthcare Services Group (HCSG): Shares are begun with a Buy at Benchmark Company, which has a $23.50 price target on a company it says should benefit from an "Aging of the Population" theme.


ACE Limited (ACE): The insurance outfit is added to the Conviction Buy List at Goldman Sachs.

Apartment Investment & Management (AIV): The residential REIT is raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

BancorpSouth (BXS): BXS gets boosted to Buy from Neutral at Suntrust.

FXCM Inc (FXCM): Shares are added to JP Morgan's Focus List.

PetroChina (PTR): HSBC Securities hoists the stock to Neutral from Underweight.

Société Générale (SCGLY.PK): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities.

UniCredit SpA (UNCFF.PK): The stock is up in Europe this morning after BNP Paribas upgraded it to Outperform from Neutral.

Scripps Networks (SNI): Shares are boosted to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

SAP AG (SAP): The German software giant gets increased to Outperform from Market Perform by Sanford Bernstein.

New York & Co (NWY): The small cap clothing company is juiced to Buy from Hold at Janney Scott based on the improved product they have seen thus far in spring that is color, trend-right, and well targeted.

HiSoft Technology (HSFT): Shares are upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital Markets, whose target is $24.

VOC Energy Trust (VOC): The stock is now Neutral from Underperform at Robert W. Baird. (YOKU): China's Internet firm is upgraded to Buy from Hold on its recent game-changing merger.


Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH): Wells Fargo moves the consulting company to Market Perform from Outperform.

Cablevision (CVC): The cable company is cut to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

CVS Caremark (CVS): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform by BMO Capital.

Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Tranzyme (TZYM): TZYM gets taken to Hold from Buy at Canaccord Genuity after its first ulimorelin Phase 3 ULISES trial misses the primary endpoint.

Drug stocks: Somaxon Pharmaceuticals (SOMX) and Vanda Pharmaceuticals (VNDA) are each downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

Valassis (VCI): The stock was downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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