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Upgrades & Downgrades: Lowe's Looks to Head Higher


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

Hoards of angry kilted clansmen converged on New York for the Tartan Day parade this weekend, and their ire was not solely due to having to make do with shabby Sixth Avenue while the bankrupt Greeks, Italians, and Irish are all afforded fancy Fifth. No, the thrifty natives of Scotland, birthplace of Adam Smith, know a thing or two about economics and hate losing money above all else. They were thus even more distressed than most other investors as stocks endured their single worst week of the year, with the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) ending down 1.99% amid slower Chinese growth and the familiar refrain of more pain in Spain. At least our Bravehearts could console themselves with penny-counting service Coinstar (CSTR) surging 7.29% on Friday alone. It now stands at an all-time high, as indeed does coatings king Sherwin-Williams (SHW). And no wonder - there's a bridge outside Edinburgh that until only a few months ago had been perpetually painted for 120 years, an almost-too-perfect metaphor for Europe's endless exercises in fiscal futility.

Financials fared the worst of all industry groups, which made it an especially awkward time for Goldman Sachs (GS) to say the pay of its CEO surged 14% to $16.1 million. Bronx-born Lloyd Blankfein once sold peanuts at the House That Ruth Built but it is now surely a toss up as to who - he or the thoroughly mediocre 5-4 Yankees, home of baseball's highest payroll - offers better value for money. Across town, the Mets thoughtfully tried to contain ever escalating inflation concerns by charging 1962 prices. We mourned the loss of Mr. Commodore 64, the computer that was Apple (AAPL) before Apple. The cult Cupertino company was caught up in the market's general malaise, enduring its worst weekly loss in six months after being sued by the Justice Department over e-book prices. As was Barnes & Noble (BKS), which slumped some 6.4% on Thursday after the news. It is lights out for the stock, thus they deserve credit for introducing a glow-in-the-dark Nook that same day. And Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A) reported a "light sheen" in the Gulf of Mexico. Presumably it was one Michael Sheen, the spitting image of BP Plc's (BP) wayward Tony Hayward. Today in economics, analysts expect business inventories for February to slip slightly at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. The first full week of first quarter earnings season begins with Brown & Brown (BRO), Citigroup (C), Gannett (GCI), ICU Medical (ICUI), M&T Bank (MTB), and Triangle Petroleum (TPLM) all due to release results.


Cadence Design (CDNS): Shares are picked up at Overweight by Piper Jaffray.

Novadaq Technologies (NVDQ): The stock is a new Overweight, also at Piper.

Select Income REIT (SIR): SIR is initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital and an Equal Weight with Morgan Stanley.


Home Depot (HD): Amid optimism over accelerating earnings growth, the Dow member is now Overweight from Neutral with Piper Jaffray.

Caterpillar (CAT): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch moves the key Dow member to Buy from Neutral.

Domino's Pizza (DPZ): Shares are boosted to Buy from Hold at Miller Tabak.

Commodity companies: Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) and Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) are each upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

Nordstrom (JWN): Citing investment initiatives that appear to be bearing fruit, Crédit Agricole raises its recommendation to Outperform from Underperform. Its price objective is also increased to $64 from $55.

Lowe's (LOW): The home improvement firm is lifted to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

BASF AG (OP:BASFY): The chemical company is higher in London this morning after upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities.

Aastrom Biosciences (ASTM): The small cap is upgraded to Speculative Buy from Hold with a $3 price target at WBB Securities.

Apogee Enterprises (APOG): APOG is upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Kansas City Capital, whose target is $15.

Esterline Technologies (ESL): ESL gets taken to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Linear Technology (LLTC): LLTC is lifted to Buy from Neutral at Longbow due to improving fundamentals and valuation.

L'Oreal (OP:LRLCY): The French cosmetics company is boosted to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

Money managers: Janus Capital (JNS) and Waddell & Reed (WDR) are each now Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

PPG Industries (PPG): Citi hoists PPG to Buy from Neutral.

QR Energy LP (QRE): The rating is raised to Outperform from Perform at Robert W. Baird, whose target is $24.

Siliconware Precision (SPIL): Barclays boosts the shares to Overweight from Equal Weight.

Standard Motor (SMP): Shares get upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman.

United Microelectronics (UMC): UMC is upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Barclays.

Vornado Realty Trust (VNO): The real estate firm is moved to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette.


Madison Square Garden (MSG): Linsanity well and truly over, Susquehanna slashes the stock to Negative from Neutral with a $28 target due to an excessive current valuation.

Infosys (INFY): Shares in the Indian outsourcer, which fell 14.36%, last week, are cut by both Deutsche Bank (Hold from Buy) and HSBC Securities (Neutral from Overweight). Sector growth has moderated and is going to be more cyclical going forward.

Ball Corp (BLL): BLL is now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Chesapeake Energy (CHK): Shares are cut to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Deutsche Telekom (OP:DTEGY): The stock is taken to Neutral from Outperform by BNP Paribas.

eResearchTech (ERT): ERT is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Auriga.

GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A. (GOL): The Latin American airline gets lowered to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities.

LaFarge (OP:LFRGY): downgraded to Hold from Buy at Société Générale.

Magna International (MGA): MGA gets moved to Sell from Neutral at Goldman.

Marathon Petroleum (MPC): The oil outfit gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

SCANA Corp (SCG): Goldman Sachs slashes SCG to Sell from Neutral.

Spreadtrum Communications (SPRD): Shares are downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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