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Upgrades & Downgrades: Sunny Future for Luxottica


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Groucho Marx, whose life savings vanished in the Crash of 1929, would have seen the funny side, though the levity was likely lost on his more serious cousin Karl. While workers of the world were united in May Day protests, capitalists everywhere benefited from the common man's toils, specifically their fine work in factories, where a manufacturing gauge unexpectedly advanced in April at its fastest pace for almost a year. As a result the Dow (^DJI) posted its now-customary gain to start a month, ending at its highest level since the recession began in December 2007. The ebullience in equities even expanded to Alan Greenspan, who bemoaned "irrational exuberance" among investors in 1996 when blue chips stood at 6,437.10 but now says the same stocks are "very cheap" at 13,279.32. Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), whose critics are better dressed than the Wall Street occupiers by virtue of their bowler hats and three-piece suits, rose 5.68% on dual analyst upgrades. Fat cat bankers imploring protesters to "Occupy a desk!" arguably had a point after office products supplier ACCO Brands (ACCO), which yesterday welcomed the iconic Trapper Keeper binders into its brand portfolio, surged 4.27%. The youthful Portuguese leader of Lloyds Banking Group (LYG), who recently took time off after failing his own personal stress test -- such are the demands of a job which welcomed him with open arms and a $13.46 million pay package -- will feel less anxious after the stock advanced 8.16%.

No comment as yet from Occupy Wall Street on that, though they will hope those pizza-pilfering policemen were long Domino's (DPZ), which dropped 9.26%. Twenty-four hours after the World Trade Center once again became Gotham's tallest building, American Tower (AMT) rose to an all-time high and Fiat S.p.A. (FIATY) reported a 20% increase in April sales for Chrysler, whose New York tower held that honor when its spire inauspiciously went up one day before the '29 Crash. Sears (SHLD), which gave its name to the world's highest structure in the 1970s, added 15.35% to top the S&P 500 (^GSPC), while Bank of America (BAC) gained 2.47%. Its Manhattan headquarters, standing only a little lower than the Empire State Building, are a $1 billion edifice erected in the economic calamity of 2009. Viagra maker Pfizer (PFE) alas fared less well, the world's largest drug maker dropping on a day that seven of its fellow blue chips made fresh 52-week peaks. Investors appear concerned about heightened competition from a decidedly unlikely source. Today in economics, consensus calls for a fall in March factory orders at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Allstate (ALL), Boston Beer (SAM), Comcast Corp (CMCSA), DreamWorks Animation (DWA), Energizer Holdings (ENR), Hertz (HTZ), Mastercard (MA), Prudential (PRU), UBS AG (UBS), Visa (V), and Whole Foods (WFM) are all due to report results.


Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF): Shares are a new Neutral at Sterne Agee.

Aerospace and defense: CRT Capital starts Sells on Lockheed Martin (LMT), Northrop Grumman (NOC), and General Dynamics (GD).

Allegiant Travel (ALGT): The stock is initiated with an Outperform at Imperial Capital, whose price objective is $80. The brokerage says the firm will add 10% more seats to its MD80 fleet.

Federal Agricultural Mortgage (AGM): Shares are a fresh Buy at Compass Point, whose target price is $41.

iRobot (IRBT): The equity is started at a Sell at CRT Capital, whose price target is $17.

Lennox International (LII): Lazard launches Buy rated research on LII.

Navios Maritime Partners (NMM): NMM is a new Outperform at Imperial Capital, which cites an attractive 10.6% dividend yield.

Phillips 66 (PSX): The refining and gas station outfit, just spun off from ConocoPhillips (COP), is a new Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Spirit Airlines (SAVE): Shares are started at Outperform by Imperial Capital.


Arch Coal (ACI): ACI is upgraded to Buy from Fair Value at CRT Capital.

Carmike Cinemas (CKEC): Shares are moved to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie.

Edwards Lifesciences (EW): EW is lifted to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

Flextronics (FLEX): Shares are now Neutral from Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Fortune Brands Home & Security (FBHS): The stock gets raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

Foster Wheeler (FWLT): Lazard lifts the shares to Buy from Neutral.

Gap Inc (GPS): Citing improved comparative sales propelled by product assortment, the recently rebounding clothing company gets upgraded to Buy from Outperform at CLSA, which takes its target to $36 from $31.

Genworth Financial (GNW): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch gives a Neutral-from-Underperform boost to GNW, sending shares up before the opening bell.

Herbalife (HLF): HLF is hoisted to Buy from Hold at Auriga after yesterday's steep slide.

Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG): IHG is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Luxottica (LUX): The Milan-based maker of upscale sunglasses is up sharply in London this morning after a Buy-from-Neutral boost at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, which likes its high exposure to the US and its increasing influence on Asia and emerging markets.

Masco (MAS): MAS gets moved to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

Papa John's (PZZA): The fast-food firm is upgraded to Hold from Sell with a $43 target at Feltl & Co.

ReachLocal (RLOC): Shares are raised to Buy from Hold at Craig Hallum.

Regal Entertainment (RGC): RGC is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Stifel Nicolaus.

STMicroelectronics (STM): The stock is up in France today after Goldman Sachs raised it to Buy from Neutral, saying "[we see] a mean-reversion value opportunity" in the name.

Thomson Reuters (TRI): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch takes TRI to Buy from Neutral.

TripAdvisor (TRIP): TRIP is upgraded to Buy from Neutral by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch after earnings.

Wolverine World Wide (WWW): Jefferies juices Hush Puppies maker to Buy from Hold.


Avon Products (AVP): The stock, which slumped 8.01% yesterday, is downgraded to Average from Above Average at Caris due to significant estimate reductions and less confidence that the $0.92 dividend can be maintained in 2013.

Assurant (AIZ): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers AIZ to Underperform from Neutral.

Axis Capital (AXIS): Shares are downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Chesapeake Energy (CHK): CHK is cut to Neutral from Buy with a new lower target of $22 at Robert W. Baird.

Collective Brands (PSS): The owner of Payless Shoes is now Neutral from Positive at Susquehanna.

ConocoPhillips (COP): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the oil giant to Underperform from Neutral.

Endo Pharmaceuticals (ENDP): Cantor Fitzgerald downgrades ENDP to Hold from Buy.

EQT Corp (EQT): The integrated energy firm is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Brean Murray.

GeoResources (GEOI): Shares get downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee.

Kansas City Southern (KSU): KSU is cut to Underperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital.

PF Chang's China Bistro (PFCB): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee.

RadioShack (RSH): Morgan Stanley moves the badly battered stock to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Ubiquiti Networks (UBNT): The equity is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Wunderlich.

Virgin Media (VMED): The company is moved to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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