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Upgrades & Downgrades: Boeing Ready for Take Off

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

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Wall Street was more bull than bear at the beginning of March, famous of course for coming in like a lion and out like a lamb. (Although Shakira would say sea lion in the case of Research in Motion (RIMM) and, after the beleaguered BlackBerry maker fell a further 4.13%, who can argue?) Stocks scored their now-customary gain to start a month, financials at the forefront as a fall in jobless claims to a four-year low sent the S&P 500(^GSPC) to a four-year high. Among standout issues, electric utility outfit Edison International (EIX) rose 2.17% on earnings to reach a multi-year summit, which is ironic in light of the town of Edison, New Jersey, having just lost its power. Gap Inc (GPS) gapped up 7.23%, standing at a fresh 52-week peak as the clothing company topped all S&P 500 advancers in shades of its late 90′s jump-'n-jive salad days. Jive Software (JIVE) certainly gave the khaki clad icon an awfully close run for its money, surging some 7.20%. Many retailers yesterday reported stellar sales for February on account of unusually mild weather - although Arctic Cat (ACAT), a snowmobile maker from the frozen tundra of Minnesota, never got that memo in ending up at 1.03% an historic high.

Also increasing to an all-time best was junk food giant Yum Brands (YUM), just in time for today's opening bell rung by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. CVS Caremark (CVS), fresh from dispensing cancer medication to kids instead of the intended fluoride tablets, also advanced to a record. Elsewhere, car companies had the biggest gain among all 24 industry groups on a day birthday boy Justin Bieber was given a $100,000 electric automobile. Although if Google (GOOG) gets its way, drivers will soon be redundant. And that Spanish woman who claims ownership of the sun would surely be better off buying bonds. Her country attracted $15.3 billion in an impressively oversubscribed fixed income auction even as First Solar (FSLR) fell 5.82% to again post the S&P 500′s poorest performance. No top-tier economic data out today but Big Lots (BIG), Conmed Healthcare Management (CONM), Genesco (GCO), Exelis (XLS) and Overstock.com (OSTK) are all due to announce earnings.


Initiations:

Aviation stocks: Dow member Boeing (BA) is a new Buy at Maxim Group, which establishes a price objective of $90. Catalysts include an under-appreciated and diverse aerospace operating base consisting of Defense, Space, Security, and Boeing capital. Private jet maker Embraer (ERJ) is also begun with a Buy and assigned a $38 target price. The commercial aircraft division is expected to experience strong growth at least for the next few years.

Commodity companies: Dow member Alcoa (AA) is a new Neutral at Nomura, along with Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF), and Teck Resources (TCK). Buys are begun on CONSOL Energy (CNX) and Vale S.A. (VALE).

Coal sector: Nomura new Neutrals on Peabody Energy (BTU), Alpha Natural Resources (ANR), and Walter Energy (WLT). It resumes Arch Coal (ACI) and Patriot Coal (PCX) with Reduce ratings.

Medical device makers: St. Jude Medical (STJ) is a new Market Perform at Northland Securities, which has a $46 target. Boston Scientific (BSX) is begun at Outperform and has an objective of $7.50.

Fusion-io (FIO): Shares are a fresh Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

First American Financial (FAF): FAF is covered with a Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette.


Upgrades:

Eli Lilly (LLY): The drug-maker is now Neutral from Underweight at JP Morgan.

Lowe's (LOW): Morgan Stanley lifts LOW to Equal Weight from Underweight.

Staples (SPLS): Shares are upgraded to Above Average from Average at Caris & Company.

Motorola Solutions (MSI): Credit Suisse moves MSI to Outperform from Neutral.

Ann Inc (ANN): The women's clothing firm, formerly know as Ann Taylor, gets increased to Buy from Neutral at Suntrust.

Aixtron (AIXG): AIXG is now Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

Brunswick (BC): The bowling behemoth is raised to Strong Buy from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Cobalt International Energy (CIE) The stock is now Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Echelon (ELON): Shares are taken to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

Everest Re (RE): Morgan Stanley raises its recommendation to Overweight from Equal Weight.

IRIS International (IRIS): The equity is upgraded to Buy from Hold with a $12.50 target at The Benchmark Company, which sees opportunities in new automated clinical laboratory devices.

Unum Group (UNM): UNM is now Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Veolia Environnement (VE): Shares of the French firm are sharply higher ahead of the open after getting upgraded to Add from Neutral at WestLB.

Regions Financial (RF): RF is raised to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Total System (TSS): TSS is taken to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna.


Downgrades:

Travelers (TRV): The Dow (^DJI) member gets downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

News Corp (NWSA): Never a dull day for Rupert Murdoch's media empire, now Outperform from Top Pick at RBC Capital. Shares are lower before the bell as a result.

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU): ALU is moved to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.

American Water (AWK): The utility is now Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird due to valuation issues.

A123 Systems (AONE): The stock is now Underperform from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch after it just preannounced Q4 earnings below consensus.

BlackRock (BLK): The money manager gets moved to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Comerica (CMA): CMA is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Fossil (FOSL): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

ITT Corp (ITT): The industrial outfit, recently trading at a 32-year high, is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Kenneth Cole (KCP): Shares are cut to Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee.

Monster Worldwide (MWW): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at UBS due to North American share losses, slowing international growth, and increased competition.

Vivendi (VIVEF.PK): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Royal Bank of Canada (RY): RY is reduced to Hold from Buy at TD Securities.

Seadrill Ltd (SDRL): Shares are downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities.

Landstar System (LSTR): LSTR is lowered to Hold at Stifel Nicolaus Stifel Nicolaus.

JB Hunt Transportation (JPHT): The stock is cut to Hold from Buy at Keybanc Capital.
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