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Upgrades & Downgrades: Sotheby's Going, Going, Gone?


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

Look on the bright side - at least Lehman Brothers is outta bankruptcy. Only 24 hours after we lost the man who, almost half a century ago and in a much less interconnected age, assured us It's a Small World After All, that proved uncannily accurate as an epitaph. Slowing global growth resulted in a wall of worry from the first BRIC to last - that's without even mentioning Europe - and sent stocks slumping, with Dow Industrials (^DJI) experiencing their first triple-digit decline in 45 days. The devilish slide occurred on March 6, the year's 66th day and the third anniversary of S&P 500 (^GSPC) stocks reaching their intraday low of 666 on March 6, 2009. Indeed even Apple Inc (AAPL) - whose first product cost $666.66 and whose stock may soon reach $666 in the eyes of some - was unable to escape the overall malaise, ending off 0.54%. Its cult followers are already camping out ahead of today's expected iPad 3 announcement and this, complete with the G8 summit hurriedly moving to Camp David, sent tent and sleeping bag maker Jarden Corp (JAH) surging 3.66% to within a whisker of a new high on a decidedly down day. A frightening market saw Monster Worldwide (MWW) jump 10.64%.

Oprah Winfrey recently walked over hot coals in a bid to revive ratings but fossil fuel king Consol Energy (CNX) fell 1.35% as the sector continues to cool considerably, experiencing its single worst day in over three years. A Mormon presidential candidate with fantastic hair won a lukewarm victory even as Utah-based Skullcandy (SKUL) slid 8.29%. Since Mitt likes to fire people, he will surely take some satisfaction in Aflac (AFL), whose Gottfried got fired, falling 3.85%. And Merrill Lynch (BAC), which must regret marching down the aisle with Bank of America (BAC) after yesterday's 3.26% tumble, downgraded Chinese dating site (DATE), sending it slumping 14.86%. In a country where 24 million men can't find women, their business model does indeed look somewhat suspect. Today in economics, January consumer credit is due out at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Adidas (ADDYY.PK), American Eagle (AEO), Brown-Forman (BF.B), Children's Place (PLCE), Express Inc (EXPR), The Fresh Market (TFM), H&R Block (HRB), Hot Topic (HOTT), Pall Corp (PLL), and Stewart Enterprises (STEI) are all due to report results.


Tech stocks: Cantor Fitzgerald begins Buy rated coverage on Dow component Cisco Systems (CSCO), Riverbed Technology (RVBD), Datalink (DTLK), and Emulex (ELX). It has Holds on Juniper Networks (JNPR), NetApp (NTAP), EMC Corp (EMC), F5 Networks (FFIV), QLogic (QLGC), and Brocade (BRCD).

Semiconductors: Altera (ALTR) initiated with a Reduce at Nomura, Xilinx (XLNX) initiated with a Neutral at Nomura.

Staffing sector: Manpower (MAN) and Robert Half International (RHI) are both begun with Buys at UBS, which has a new Neutral on Korn/Ferry (KFY).

Financial information industry: FactSet Research Systems (FDS) is a fresh Neutral at UBS, which resumes MSCI Inc (MSCI) at a Buy.

Douglas Emmett Inc (DEI): The REIT is started at an Overweight with Morgan Stanley.

Rockwell Automation (ROK): Shares are picked up with an Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.

SLM Corp (SLM): The student lender, better known as Sallie Mae, is assumed with an Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.

Moody's (MCO): MCO is a new Neutral at UBS.

Verastem (VSTM): VSTM is a new Outperform at Oppenheimer, which establishes a price objective of $16.The firm believes there is growing evidence CSCs (cancer stem cells) have a key role in tumor initiation and metastasis, and expects the stock to appreciate as clinical progress and high-profile scientific publications further underscore the importance of CSCs.


Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS): Shares, at an all-time high, are now Neutral from Underperform at Sterne Agee.

Lululemon athletica (LULU): LULU, already up 40% in 2012, are higher again ahead of the open after being boosted to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Nestlé (NSRGY.PK): The Swiss confectionery giant is now Outperform from Neutral at BNP Paribas.

Jack in the Box (JACK): Credit Suisse juices its rating to Neutral from Underperform.

Carmike Cinemas (CKEC): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

Automatic Data (ADP): The stock is to the US Focus List at Credit Suisse.

Express Scripts (ESRX): ESRX is increased to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Medidata Solutions (MDSO): The company is raised to Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray.

USG Corp (USG): Macquarie moves the stock to Outperform from Neutral.

Tesoro (TSO): TSO gets taken to Neutral from Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.


Kraft Foods (KFT): Jefferies moves the Dow member to Hold from Buy.

Sotheby's (BID): Shares in the auction house, which got hammered to the tune of 2.24% yesterday, are moved to Perform from Outperform by William's Capital Group, taking its target to $34.50 from $45 in the process. The broker has concerns about the health of the art market and the potential for a market share fight with Christie's.

Pandora Media (P): Shares are cut by both Citigroup (Neutral from Buy) and Raymond James (Market Perform from Outperform). The stock is slumping before the bell.

Unilever (UN): The consumer products powerhouse, whose ubiquitous household brands include Ben & Jerry's, Lipton, and Vaseline, is now Neutral from Outperform by BNP Paribas.

Medco Health Solutions (MHS): MHS is moved to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (AEGR): Lazard lowers its rating to Neutral from Buy.

AeroVironment (AVAV): AVAV is downgraded to Hold from Buy at EarlyBirdCapital.

CVR Energy (CVI): The equity is now Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

RWE AG (RWEOY.PK): Shares get cut to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities after the German energy giant announced a 45% plunge in annual net profit.

Vermillion (VRML): The small cap stock is slashed to Sell from Neutral at Ladenburg Thalmann, which believes investors are misinterpreting issuance of a code as being tantamount to receiving reimbursement at Medicare levels of around $500 per test, while their base case is for pricing of $350 based on reimbursement.

ZELTIQ Aesthetics (ZLTQ): The California-based maker of fat-reduction technology, which yesterday took its steepest intraday tumble since an October 2011 IPO, is cut to Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs and to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.
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