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Upgrades & Downgrades: Fresh Headache for Bayer


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

Today is the Ides of March and in the year an ancient empire assured us the world will end, so it may yet be premature to rain on the Mayan parade entirely. And you certainly wouldn't want to be stuck in Earth's last downpour with one of Citigroup's (C) iconic umbrellas as your only shelter, the financial firm falling 3.40% on a stress test downgrade at JP Morgan (JPM), who can quite literally afford to be smug about such things. But if this really is the end of the globe on the eve of Armageddon, Dow Industrials (^DJI) are determined to go out in a blaze of glory. Gains weren't great but blue chips still advanced for a sixth straight session, the longest such streak in over a year. Bank of America (BAC) again paced all advancers and is now up 59% in 2012 after falling 58% in 2011. Surely President Obama's recent decision to move his convention speech to BofA Stadium is no longer seen as such a bust, so to speak. This as our commander in chief moved to sooth over America's 'special relationship' with Britain that was so damaged by the removal of one. Yesterday's Rose Garden press conference with counterpart David Cameron appeared to smooth over a previously thorny transatlantic relationship, though they would have been better off meeting under the Apple (AAPL) tree. The equity hit a record high for a sixth consecutive day, ending up 3.78% after Morgan Stanley (MS) put its money where its mouth is and said shares could soon reach $720.

That's certainly not a cheap thrill for a firm currently caught up in a Mayflower Madam case (One which may hinge on toothbrush evidence; as if on cue, Colgate (CL) also rose to its best level ever.) Elsewhere Blyth Inc (BTH), a scented candle and decoration company headquartered in tony Greenwich, Connecticut jumped 14.76% to a near four year summit - Ruth Madoff must be redecorating. On the loser side of the ledger, EMC Corp (EMC) slid 1.76% after an analyst showed a sense of humor by downgrading it on Albert Einstein's birthday. He once contributed to Encyclopedia Britannica, but the iconic outfit founded in 1768 Edinburgh is going all digital, a money-saving maneuver any Scotsman can appreciate. Coincidentally or not, Xerium Technologies (XRM), a supplier of paper-making products, promptly slid 17.94%. And a Goldman (GS) executive called it quits in a national newspaper, saying "Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence". Lizzie Borden, appalled by how such an educated and well-compensated person can misspell the simple word "axe", is about to come after him. This morning in economics, analysts expect the March Philadelphia Fed Index to tick up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, AMC Networks (AMCX), Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG), Deutsche Lufthansa (DLAKY.PK), Getty Realty (GTY), Hawaiian Telcom (HCOM), Kohlberg Capital Corp (KCAP), New York & Co (NWY), Porsche Automobil (POAHY.PK), Ross Stores (ROST), Scholastic (SCHL), and TravelCenters of America (TA) are all due to release results.


Biotechs: Stifel begins Buys on, among others, Biogen Idec (BIIB), Celgene (CELG), and Gilead Sciences (GILD). Amgen (AMGN) is among the Holds.

Medical device stocks: Stryker (SYK) and Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) are each initiated Outperforms at Credit Suisse.

Generic drugmakers: Mylan Labs (MYL) and Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI) are both picked up with Positives at Susquehanna

Discover Financial Services (DFS): Shares, trading at record highs, are resumed with a Buy recommendation and $40 price objective at Argus, which says it has the opportunity over time to become a major global card network as issuers and merchants seek alternatives to the Visa (V)-MasterCard (MA) oligopoly.

Cempra (CEMP): CEMP is a new Buy Needham, which has a $11 price target.

Portugal Telecom (PT): Shares are picked up with a Buy at ING Groep.

Progress Energy (PGN): Dahlman Rose has a Holdf on PGN.

Gentiva Health Services (GTIV): The stock gets initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

Spectranetics (SPNC): SPNC is an Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

World Acceptance (WRLD): FBR Capital has a Perform and $68 target. (CTRP): Shares are initiated with an Underweight at Barclays, whose target is $23.


Advanced Micro Devices (AMD): Jefferies juices its rating to Buy from Hold.

Level 3 (LVLT): LVLT is lifted to Buy from Neutral by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

J.M. Smucker (SJM): The peanut butter maker gets moved Market Perform from Underperform by Sanford Bernstein.

PF Chang's (PFCB): The fast food firm is upgraded to Hold from Sell at Argus on account of an increasingly attractive valuation.

Union Pacific (UNP): UNP is increased to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

ACCO Brands (ABD): The firm is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

EnerNOC (ENOC): Capstone hoists the equity to Hold from Sell.

FXCM Inc (FXCM): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

NuVasive (NUVA): NUVA is now Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities.

Munich Re (MURGY.PK): The giant German insurance outfit is upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Keefe Bruyette.

OM Group (OMG): OMG gets upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at First Analysis.

Public Storage (PSA): The REIT is raised to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Tech stocks: Veeco Instruments (VECO) and Aixtron (AIXG) are each upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank, sending shares surging before the bell.


eBay (EBAY): The stock is downgraded to Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Bayer AG (BAYRY.PK): The Aspirin inventor, which has fallen 5.90% in the past 12 months, is now Neutral from Overweight at JP Morgan.

Sony (SNE): The Japanese consumer electronics powerhouse gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Lazard (LAZ): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the money manager to Underperform from Neutral.

Joy Global (JOYG): Tears for the company, now Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Digital Realty Trust (DLR): DLR is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

AmeriGas Partners (APU): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Janney Montgomery Scott.

AthenaHealth (ATHN): ATHN is cut to Sell from Hold at Auriga.

Exco Resources (XCO): The company is downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies.

Rose Rock Midstream (RRMS): Shares are now Neutral from Outperform with a $25 objective at Robert W. Baird.

WMS Industries (WMS): The stock is downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Zhongpin (HOGS): HOGS is now Hold from Buy at Brean Murray as 2011′s Average Selling Price growth is unlikely to continue.
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