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Upgrades & Downgrades: IBM Adds to the Market's Big Blues

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

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A bald baby boomer named Ben gave out free treats yesterday but it alas wasn't Bernanke. Just as well, for don't be fooled by Mr. Cohen's Vermont hippy schtick. He sold his company for a cool $326 million to the corporate conglomerate Unilever (UN) and is arguably infinitely more astute with money than the Fed head. Cooling prospects for further quantitative easing saw the Dow (^DJI) snap a three-day wining streak and sent the Nasdaq (^IXIC) down for a fifth session in six. In corporate news, Chrysler sales surged 34%, which will please its Italian owner Fiat S.p.A. (FIATY.PK) presumably a little more than arch American patriot Clint Eastwood, for whom it is halftime here. It is also apparently only halftime for Rick Santorum, the Audi owner who also loves his country. When the auto industry spokesman is 81, and kids are abandoning an erstwhile right of passage in droves, one wonders how healthy Detroit's long term future actually is. Still, in a world where a 92 year-old New York cab driver - the story appeared on April 1st but it seems to check out - lived to see yesterday's launch of the city's "taxi of tomorrow", anything goes. This week's release of the 1940 census, compiled in the same year The Grapes of Wrath arrived on the silver screen, inspired Goldman Sachs, whose recent PR woes have driven it to drink, to upgrade Constellation Brands (STZ). The world's largest wine company hit its highest level in half a decade as a result, ending up 2.30%.

Molson Coors (TAP) meanwhile fared less well, plunging 5.43% although if that free fall has left the company shaken, not stirred, it can now at least enjoy a Skyfall with new beer buff James Bond. Truth be told, recent bond market action merits something stronger than a martini. Peanut butter and jelly day was Monday but if J. M. Smucker (SJM) was a day late it certainly wasn't a dollar short, reaching a record high. And Groupon (GRPN) followed a 16.89% slide to start the week by losing a further 1.67% to a post-IPO low. Their policy of releasing bad news on a Friday afternoon was based on the time tested tree-falls-in-a-deserted-forest formula. Trouble is, Monday always comes around, even for Sino-Forest (SNOFF.PK), which declared bankruptcy the same day. Today in economics, analysts expect the March Institute for Supply Management's March services index to slip slightly at 10:00 am Eastern. In earnings action, Acuity Brands (AYI), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Harry Winston Diamond (HWD), Monsanto (MON), PriceSmart (PSMT), and Ruby Tuesday (RT) are all due to report results.


Initiations:

Ball Corp (BLL): Shares are begun with an Overweight at Barclays.

Bazaarvoice (BV): BV is begun with Overweights at both Piper Jaffray and Morgan Stanley. BMO Capital assigns an Outperform and $24 price objective, saying it is the clear leader in the online customer review market.

Celgene (CELG): CELG is initiated with a Buy at Cantor Fitzgerald, whose target price is $90. Multiple near term catalysts can deliver on the company's "transformational milestones" objectives that enhance growth prospects and diversify dependence from Revlimid, the flagship product for multiple myeloma.

Celldex Therapeutics (CLDX): The small cap is covered with a Buy at Cantor Fitzgerald.

DXP Enterprises (DXPE): The equity is begun with a Buy at Capstone Investments.

EMC Corp (EMC): Shares are a Buy at Mizuho, whose target is $34. Catalysts include an 80% stake in VMware (VMW).

Hologic (HOLX): The medical appliance maker is begun with a Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Paper & Forest Products: International Paper (IP) and Owens-Illinois (OI) are each initiated with Overweights at Barclays.

Software stocks: TIBCO Software (TIBX) and Informatica (INFA) are both begun with a Buy at Jefferies, which has Holds on Progress Software (PRGS) and Teradata (TDC).

Sealed Air (SEE): Barclays begins the Bubble Wrap maker at Overweight.

Spirit Airlines (SAVE): SAVE is started with a Buy at Citigroup.

Sysco Corp (SYY): The grocer gets resumed with a Sell at Goldman Sachs.


Upgrades:

Starbucks (SBUX): Shares are upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman, which also adds it to the Conviction Buy List.

Gap Inc (GPS): The clothing company is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

American International Group (AIG): The stock is up ahead of the open on an upgrade to Outperform from Market Perform by Sanford Bernstein.

Brown-Forman (BF-B): The maker of alcoholic beverages including Jack Daniel's, Southern Comfort, and Finlandia gets a Buy-from-Neutral boost at UBS.

Biogen Idec (BIIB): BIIB is upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Blackstone (BX): The money manager is added to the Top Picks Live list at Citigroup.

CSX Corp (CSX): The railroad is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Atlantic Equities.

Norfolk Southern (NSC): Staying in the sector, NSC is now Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Networking stocks: Ciena (CIEN) is upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan amid better expectations for capital equipment spending in the second half of 2012. Tellabs (TLAB) is taken to Neutral from Underweight.

Joy Global (JOYG): JOYG gets upgraded to Buy from Hold at Keybanc Capital.

NRG Energy (NRG): NRG is now upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Southwest Airlines (LUV): LUV gets lifted to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Supervalu (SVU): Shares are now Neutral from Negative at Susquehanna.


Downgrades:

McDonald's (MCD): The Dow member is removed from the Conviction Buy List at Goldman.

International Business Machines (IBM): Big Blue, recently trading at record highs, is taken to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

SanDisk (SNDK): Shares are downgraded to Outperform from Top Pick at RBC Capital following an earnings guidance cut.

Tim Hortons (THI): The Canadian donut maker is moved to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

United Continental (UAL): Shares are downgraded Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays.

Property & Casualty Insurance: Progressive Corp (PGR) is cut by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch to Neutral from Buy. National Interstate (NATL) is now Underperform from Neutral.

Polaris Industries (PII): PII is moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

Allot Communications (ALLT): Shares are downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

Assured Guaranty (AGO): AGO is cut to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Genesee & Wyoming (GWR): The freight railroad operator gets downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Jaguar Mining (JAG): JAG is lower before the bell after getting downgraded to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Novo-Nordisk (NVO): NVO is now Sell from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Under Armour (UA): UA is downgraded to Hold at Stifel Nicolaus.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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