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Upgrades & Downgrades: Shoe Carnival Kicks Back and Counts Profits

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

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Goldman Sachs (GS) said we are in a "long good buy" in equities but as economist John Maynard Keynes once mused, "In the long run we are all dead" and impatient investors - always in a 'What have you done for me lately?' mode - were more concerned with the Dow (^DJI) dropping for a third session in four. Volume was again light as disappointing data on existing home sales contributed to a lack of overall energy - literally, with that sector being the day's single poorest performer. March came in like a lamb but is going out a Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF), which added 2.62% to another fresh best. The Mad Men producer can always call upon cured Hamm in the extremely unlikely event its Hunger Games fails at the box office, making it a win-win proposition. The much-hyped movie, opening at midnight, is by all accounts good but it ain't no Casablanca, which turned 70 yesterday looking better than ever. As Fed head Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testified on Europe's economic crisis - and a far more important Tim, Tebow, weighed multi-million dollar offers -- Bogie had it right: "The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world". And anyway, who needs hills when you've got Green Mountain Coffee (GMCR), a 10.04% gainer? Rick's Café Américain would certainly welcome both it and Starbucks (SBUX), sleepless as ever in Seattle after reaching a record for a seventh successive session.

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." Not no more - these days it's Molson Coors (TAP) which brings 'em in, the brewer advancing on an analyst upgrade. They recently got into the iced tea business; what on earth would three martini serial smoker Don Draper think of that? Best not to ask, but instead point out Philip Morris (PM) stands atop an all-time peak. Simple Simon Property Group (SPG) also rose to a record, and it was elementary my dear Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI), whose 8.82% increase paced all S&P 500 (^GSPC) issues. Sherlock Holmes would also approve of Netflix (NFLX) rising 4.42% on high hopes for its own Hemlock Grove mystery series. And on the anniversary of Alcatraz's closing, an analyst cut prison operator Corrections Corp of America (CXW), which will turn Blogo's remaining hairs grey. At least, with the recently arrested George Clooney, he is in good company on that score. This morning in economics, analysts expect an increase in Leading Indicators for February at 10:00 am. Eastern. On the earnings front, Accenture (ACN), China Unicom (CHU), Dollar General (DG), FedEx (FDX), GameStop (GME), Hermès International (HESAY.PK), Lululemon Athletica (LULU), Micron (MU), Nike (NKE), Perry Ellis (PERY), Steelcase (SCS), and Wet Seal (WTSLA) are all due to report results.


Initiations:

Carnival Corp (CCL) The cruise company is a new Neutral at Longbow.

Ciena (CIEN): CIEN is begun with a Buy at Nomura.

United Continental (UAL): The recently merged airline is initiated with an Outperform at Raymond James.

McGraw-Hill (MHP): The Standard & Poor''s owner is a fresh Buy at Jefferies

F5 Networks (FFIV): Nomura has a Neutral on FFIV.

Financial stocks: Bank of Ireland (IRE) is started with a Sell at Citigroup, which has a new Neutral on Deutsche Boerse AG (DBOEY.PK).

Energy stocks: Gulfmark Offshore (GLF) and Hornbeck Offshore (HOS) are each initiated with Equal Weights at Morgan Stanley, which has an Overweight on Tidewater (TDW).

Banco de Chile (BCH): Shares are initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Pearson Plc (PSO): The Financial Times publisher is a new Hold at Jefferies.

JA Solar (JASO): JASO is reinstated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Cimarex (XEC): Shares are an Above Average at Caris & Company.


Upgrades:

Exxon Mobil (XOM): The Dow member is now Neutral from Underweight with a $92 target at JPMorgan amid high hopes for a dividend hike.

OpenTable (OPEN): OPEN is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Shoe Carnival (SCVL): Shares, surging before the bell, are upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee. The target is $34.

Taser (TASR): TASE is taken to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan, whose price objective is $5.

Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF): The stock is lifted to Below Average from Sell at Caris.

Western Digital (WDC): WDC is trading up ahead of the open on a boost to Strong Buy from Buy at Needham, whose new higher target is $66.

Autoliv (ALV): ALV gets upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman Sachs.

American Electric Power (AEP): AEP is increased to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

C.R. Bard (BCR): Shares are now Neutral from Sell at Goldman.

Education Management (EDMC): The stock is moved to Equal Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley.

Emerson Electric (EMR): EMR is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Nomura.

First Republic Bank (FRC): The firm is taken to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley

PVH Corp (PVH) The clothing company formerly called Phillips-Van Heusen is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Subsea 7 SA (SUBCY): Shares are now Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan.


Downgrades:

Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF): LGF is lowered to Equal Weight from Overweight at Evercore

Novo-Nordisk A/S (NVO): The stock is lower before the bell on a downgrade to Sell from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Annaly Capital Management (NLY): NLY is now Underperform from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

CVB Financial (CVBF): Shares are cut to Hold from Buy with a $12 price target at Wunderlich, which says the good news is largely baked in to the stock at current levels.

Rackspace (RAX): RAX gets reduced to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

Regional banks: Associated Banc-Corp (ASBC) is downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley, which reduces rival First Horizon (FHN) to Equal Weight from Overweight.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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