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Upgrades & Downgrades: Groupon Gets Its Wings Clipped


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

In New York, where what was shaping up to be the driest March ever exited with one last wintry blast, meteorologically speaking our third month came in like a lamb and out like a lion. Markets meanwhile were truer to form, with the S&P 500 Index gaining 3.1% over the past four weeks even as it ominously fell in six of the past ten trading days. This stumble over the finishing line failed to prevent the benchmark bourse from posting its best first quarter since 1998, the year the Sex and the City crowd first donned their expensive Manolo Blahniks. (Alas in the footwear mogul's homeland, quarter-end "window dressing" meant covering broken ones in graffiti in Barcelona on Friday. There will be no sex in certain segments of that city, or elsewhere in Spain, until stingy bankers loosen the purse strings. Unfortunately, the laudable move from Iberia's hookers may have come too late to prevent a contagion, with native son Banco Santander (STD) having tumbled 47.5% in only 24 months.)

Nasdaq (^IXIC) meanwhile jumped 18.7% in its best Q1 showing since 1991, back when it was Demi Moore, not Jessica Simpson, baring all before giving birth. And Japan's Nikkei surged 19% over the past three months, a showing unmatched since 1988. Back then that country was all set to rule the roost economically as far as the eye could see, according to the same experts who assure us China - where stocks slid 6.8% in March - is set for a similar period of global hegemony. For now Beijing can be content with having overtaken Exxon Mobil (XOM), whose notorious Valdez was just sold for scrap to another BRIC. Sign of the times? History, as it always does, will decide. This morning in economics, construction spending for February is expected to show an increase at 10:00 am Eastern. On the corporate front, Pep Boys – Manny, Moe & Jack (PBY) is the pick of a quiet session for quarterly earnings.


Apple Inc (AAPL): It just had to happen. The cult Cupertino company now has its first four-figure price objective, boutique broker Topeka initiating Buy rated research and assigning a target of $1,001.

General Motors (GM): The auto giant gets resumed with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Ceres Inc (CERE): Piper Jaffray picks up the agricultural chemicals company at Overweight.

Dexcom (DXCM): The stock is launched with a Market Perform at Leerink Swann.

FX Alliance (FX): FX is a fresh Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN): Goldman Sachs resumes the stock with a Buy recommendation.

Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD): Staying in the sector, shares are initiated with a Buy at Mizuho, which establishes a $15 target price. The broker forecasts global sales for TH-302 in pancreatic cancer and STS to reach $1.7 billion by 2018.

XPO Logistics (XPO): XPO is begun with a Buy at Deutsche Bank.


Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): The retailer is raised to Buy from Hold at Brean Murray.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK): The aerospace and defense outfit is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan due to a favorable risk/reward profile. Its price target also goes up, to $62.

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ): Shares are upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Concho Resources (CXO): The stock is up before the bell on a Buy-from-Hold boost by Deutsche Bank.

Dresser-Rand (DRC): DRC is upgraded to Market Outperform from Market Perform by brokerage Howard Weil, whose objective is $60.

E.ON AG (EONGY.PK): The German energy giant gets upgraded to Buy from Hold at Société Générale.

Frontier Communications (FRT): FRT is now Buy from Neutral at Nomura.

Kohl's Corp (KSS): The retailer is raised to Neutral from Underweight at JP Morgan.

Noranda Aluminum (NOR): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lifts to the commodity company to Buy from Neutral.

PetMed Express (PETS): PETS is now Neutral from Underweight at Piper Jaffray.

PVH Corp (PVH): The clothing company, known until last year as Phillips-Van Heusen, is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse. Catalysts include improved visibility for growth in its domestic and international Tommy Hilfiger business. The target is $105, up from $72.

Redwood Trust (RWT): RWT is raised to Neutral from Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Rio Tinto (RIO): RIO is hiked to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Volvo (VOLVY.PK): The Swedish car firm is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Worthington Industries (WOR): WOR is now Neutral from Sell at Goldman.


Allergan (AGN): The botox maker is among several medical companies cut to Neutral from Buy at Lazard. (AMZN): Shares are lower ahead of the open on a downgrade to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Anglo American (AAUKY.PK): The miner is moved downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays.

Casual dining: Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) (to Underperform), Darden Restaurants (DRI) (Market Perform), DineEquity (DIN) (Outperform), and Panera Bread (PNRA) (Underperform) are all cut at Raymond James.

Cogent Communications (CCOI): Shares are downgraded to Underperform from Buy Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Groupon (GRPN): The online coupon clipper is cut to Neutral from Buy by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch following Friday's announcement of a fourth-quarter loss which was wider than initially disclosed. Stifel Nicolaus also slashed it to Sell from Hold.

eHealth (EHTH): Bank of America-Merrill moves EHTH to Neutral from Buy.

Halliburton (HAL): HAL is downgraded to Market Perform from Market Outperform at Howard Weil, whose target is $43.

Lumber Liquidators (LL): LL is lowered to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus due to valuation.

Sherwin-Williams (SHW): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

SL Green Realty (SLG): The REIT is reduced to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Semiconductor stocks: Texas Instruments (TXN) and Linear Technology (LLTC) are each taken to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Cenovus Energy (CVE): CVE us downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

Carbo Ceramics (CRR): CRR is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Pritchard.

Cytec Industries (CYT): CYT is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

PAREXEL (PRXL): PRXL gets cut to Underperform from Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Exelis (XLS): The stock is moved to Neutral from Overweight at JP Morgan.

VMware (VMW): The tech firm is taken to Equal Weight from Overweight at Evercore.
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