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Upgrades & Downgrades: Molson Coors Just the Market's Cup of Tea?

By

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

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On the earliest start to the season since 1896 - the very year the Dow Index (^DJI) was invented - stocks failed to spring forward, blue chips instead falling backwards for only the second time in ten trading sessions. The world's largest communist country put the kibosh on capitalism; equities ending Down Under after Australia's BHP Billiton (BHP) cited China's slowing steel production. Volume was once again anemic - only to be expected after the CEO of the commodity company also warned Beijing is experiencing "flattening" demand for iron-ore. Investors also took note of housing starts having stopped here in America, February construction ominously slipping 1.1% even amid unusually mild temperatures. Among standout issues, Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) gained 7.23% to an all-time high after JP Morgan (JPM), showing its sense of humor, began covering The Hunger Games distributor at a rating of Overweight. How a 76-year old lion in winter must rue his missed opportunity in the stock. Also moving up on an otherwise down day was the New York Times (NYT), which fancies itself a lion among paper tigers. It is cutting in half its number of free online articles but, as they know better than most, there is more than one way to scale a paywall.

Bank of America (BAC), which like the Gray Lady built a fancy midtown Manhattan skyscraper tower in recent years even as its stock slumped, continued its recovery with a 2.94% increase to pace all Dow advancers. The Yankees sponsor - and don't the Bronx bombers look happy about that - benefited from a $40 million loan repayment from the Mets, whose $162 million Madoff-related deal represents a million bucks for each regular season game. March is prime divorce month but when even Tricky Dick shows us his sensitive side, you can't kill romance. While licking his wounds from a last place finish in Illinois, Tiffany (TIF) client Newt Gingrich can at least console himself with that stock's 6.68% surge, the diamond wedding ring king topping the entire S&P 500 (^GSPC). And the worst performer in that index? Peabody Energy (BTU), our biggest coal producer falling 5.38%. Ferris Bueller, who today turns 50, must have made a killing simply by being Cameron's friend for a quarter century. This morning in economics, February existing home sales are anticipated to increase at 10:00 am Eastern. On the earnings front, expect announcements from Actuant (ATU), Clarcor (CLC), Discover Financial (DFS), Fred's Inc (FRED), General Mills (GIS), Herman Miller Inc (MLHR), and Shoe Carnival (SCVL).


Initiations:

AT&T Inc (T): The Dow member is begin with a Buy recommendation and $34 price target at Telsay Advisory Group, which notes it is becoming less reliant on legacy voice businesses given investments in LTE, U-Verse, and cloud computing.

Molson Coors Brewing (TAP): The beer behemoth, fresh from announcing its introduction of Coors Light Iced Tea in Canada, is initiated with a Buy rating and $48 target by brokers William Smith, which highlights an approximately 3% dividend yield among other favorable factors.

Micron (MU): Shares are resumed with an Outperform at RBC Capital.

Aruba Networks (ARUN): Auriga begins Buy rated research on ARUN.

Caesars Entertainment (CET): The casino company, a recent IPO, is a new Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

MicroStrategy (MSTR): MSTR is initiated with a Buy at ThinkEquity

Precision Drilling (PSD): Wells Fargo picks up PSD at a Market Perform.

Enpro Industries (NPO): NPO is a new Buy at Capstone Investments.

GSE Holdings (GSE): Shares get picked up with an Outperform at Oppenheimer.

Synacor (SYNC): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch launches the Buffalo-based Internet information provider at a Buy, as does Needham among others. Their respective price objectives are $10 and $8.

U.S. Silica (SLCA): Shares are initiated with a Buy at Dahlman Rose.

Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT): The stock is a new Buy at Auriga, whose target is $31.

Equinix (EQIX): Shares are initiated with a Buy at Jefferies.


Upgrades:

News Corp (NWSA): Rupert Murdoch's media empire is now Neutral from Sell at Macquarie.

LinkedIn (LNKD): Shares get lifted to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

OpenTable (OPEN): The stock is trading up before the bell after being boosted to Buy from Hold at The Benchmark Company, which cites superior growth and its potential as a takeover target.

Vodafone Group (VOD): The mobile telecom firm is up in London this morning after being added to Goldman's Conviction Buy List.

Agrium (AGU): AGU is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Accenture (ACN): The consulting company gets increased to Hold from Sell at Société Générale.

Hercules Offshore (HERO): HERO is moved to Perform from Underperform at FBR Capital.

NiSource (NI): NI is now Buy from Hold at Keybanc Capital.

OraSure Technologies (OSUR): The equity is boosted to Buy from Hold at MLV & Co, which expects its Over the counter HIV test will receive approval this year.

Royal Gold (RGLD): RGLD gets raised to Outperform from Perform at National Bank.

Saba Software (SABA): Shares are now Buy from Hold at Benchmark.

Silicon Labs (SLAB): SLAB is lifted to Buy from Neutral at UBS.

Regional banks: Guggenheim upgrades Capital One (COF) and Regions Financial (RF), both to Buy from Neutral.


Downgrades:

AeroVironment (AVAV): The stock is moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital.

Allscripts-Misys Healthcare (MDRX): Shares are downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Assurant (AIZ): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the name to Neutral from Buy.

BlackRock (BLK): BLK gets cut to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Cintas (CTAS): The work uniform maker is downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $45 target at Robert W. Baird amid fewer visible catalysts and high expectations after a recent run.

Corrections Corporation of America (CXW): The prison operator is now Neutral from Buy at SunTrust due to mixed news regarding state budgets and lower occupancy at some facilities.

China Telecom (CHA): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at JP Morgan.

Luxottica (LUX): LUX is lowered to Reduce from Neutral at Nomura.

Perfect World (PWRD): Shares are falling this morning after being downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Nomura.

Regional banks: Guggenheim downgrades BB&T Corp (BBT), M&T Bank (MTB), and SunTrust (STI), all now Neutral from Buy.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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