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Upgrades & Downgrades: Recommending Darden Restaurants Without Reservations


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

Like your glass half full? Then let's say upbeat economic data saw the S&P 500 (^GSPC) score its third straight weekly increase and eighth in nine, while Dow Industrials (^DJI) completed a fifth successive winning month and Nasdaq (^IXIC) touched 3,000 for the first time in over 11 years. Prefer it half empty? Pessimists will point out the benchmark US index advanced all of 0.28%, while blue chips actually fell and, most ominously of all, the small cap Russell 2000 (^RUT) tumbled 2.9%. And if your tastes run instead to an overflowing glass, well, you'll have to ask Angela. Mitt Romney won his home state of Michigan, where the "trees are the right height", while one of his rivals was simply out-of-his-tree. It was easier being green for the tree-hugging hippies of Whole Foods (WFM), which rose to a record high - as indeed did Dollar Tree (DLTR), money growing easily on its branches. (And The Lorax need not worry that our mighty oaks gave their lives in vain; International Paper (IP) surged some 8.2%.) Forget about far from the tree, the Apple (AAPL) didn't fall at all, advancing 4.4% as its market cap topped $500 billion for the first time. That makes it worth more than Poland, which would have been enough to turn the country to drink were it not for the fact that Polish vodka maker Central European Distribution Corp (CEDC) concurrently tumbled 27.83%.

The tech titan benefited from this Wednesday's anticipated introduction of the iPad 3, which will also soon be seen in the back of New York taxis. Meanwhile a cab-hopping passenger at Morgan Stanley (MS) learned apparently a little too literally from the firm's former CEO Mack the Knife. Far better to stick with public transport - after all, Putin's "carousel voters" caught constantly getting on and off buses at polling stations just won him another term. Perrigo (PRGO), upgraded this morning, jumped 9.9% after it started shipping a generic hair regrowth treatment in the week mop-topped Justin Bieber turned 18. The follicularly-challenged among us need not despair for the bald still rule the world, Ben Bernanke's chrome dome going before the Capitol dome to discuss the similarly light-on-top Paul Volcker. And sadly we lost not one Monkee, but two. Not to worry -apes throwing darts at a board are still a far better bet than any 'expert' stock picker. This morning in economics, January factory orders and the Institute for Supply Management's February non-manufacturing survey are each out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Asset Acceptance (AACC), Black Diamond (BDE), Cross Country Healthcare (CCRN), Ducommun (DCO), First Majestic Silver (AG), Nutrisystem (NTRI), Steinway Musical Instruments (LVB), and VeriFone (PAY) are all due to report results.


Recruiting sector: Monster Worldwide (MWW) and Dice Holdings (DHX) are both initiated with Outperforms at BMO Capital.

Guidewire Software (GWRE): The stock is begun with a Buy at Deutsche Bank, a Neutral at Citigroup, and an Overweight at JP Morgan.

Harman International (HAR): Morgan Stanley starts the audio products powerhouse at an Underweight.


Allstate (ALL): The insurer gets a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Argus, which sets it a $36 target price. Catalysts include a strong balance sheet, and attractive valuation multiples.

Alaska Communications (ALSK): ALSK is upgraded to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

Aixtron (AIXG): Shares are raised by both WestLB (Neutral from Reduce) and Canaccord Genuity (Hold from Sell.)

Atwood Oceanics (ATW): ATW is moved to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Big Lots (BIG): The stock is now Buy from Neutral at Northcoast.

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCH): JP Morgan juices its recommendation to Neutral from Underweight.

Darden Restaurants (DRI): The Olive Garden and Red Lobster owner is added to Bank of America-Merrill Lynch's US 1 List of favored equities.

PF Chang's (PFCB): Staying in the sector, PFCB is named a long Research Tactical Idea at Morgan Stanley.

HomeAway (AWAY): Citigroup gives the stock a Buy-from-Neutral boost.

Lockheed Martin (LMT): The aerospace outfit gets lifted to Outperform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

MetLife (MET): MET is added to the US 1 List by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Pandora Media (P): Saying it "has emerged as a must-have tablet and connected device application", Stifel Nicolaus raises its recommendation on the Internet radio pioneer to Buy from Hold and establishes a price objective of $18. Shares are higher ahead of the open as a result.

Perrigo (PRGO): The stock gets increased to Buy from Hold at Canaccord Genuity.

Sonoco Products (SON): SON is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan.

Sykes Enterprises (SYKE): SYKE is raised to Outperform from Neutral at Robert W. Baird, which establishes a price objective of $18 amid easing revenue comps, a strong cash position, and solid earnings power.

Toyota Motor (TM): TM is taken to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Weyerhaeuser (WY): The lumber company is lifted to Market Perform from Underperform by BMO Capital.


Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW): Shares are downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform by BMO Capital.

BASF AG (BASFY.PK): The German chemical company gets cut to Neutral from Buy by Citi.

CF Industries (CF): CF is now to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

CH Energy (CHG): The stock is taken to Hold from Buy at Brean Murray due to valuation concerns.

CenterPoint Energy (CNP): RBC Capital reduces its rating to Sector Perform from Outperform.

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (IRWD): The drug company is downgraded to Underperform from Outperform with Wedbush.

Jabil Circuit (JBL): JBL is now Buy from Strong Buy at Needham on valuation.

Summit Hotel (INN): Shares are slashed to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Wireless stocks: MetroPCS (PCS) and Leap Wireless (LEAP) are each moved to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein, sending them lower before the opening bell.

Vornado Realty Trust (VNO): The REIT is reduced to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Zynga (ZNGA): The Internet firm, up 13.6% last week to a post-IPO peak, is now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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