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Upgrades & Downgrades: You're in Good Hands With Allstate


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor who stands 4 feet 10 and 1/2 inches tall, captured the mood of short sellers everywhere after disappointing data on the services sector and sluggish sales from several retailers sent shares sliding for a third day in four. Mixed messages continued to confound the market, with initial unemployment claims dropping by the most in a year even as first quarter productivity fell 0.5%, the latter surprising economists but not basketball buffs. Rocky Mountain Chocolate (RMCF) rose 4.27% and Iron Mountain (IRM) was upgraded this morning, but yesterday was all about the 47.47% slide in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). Nine years to the day after New Hampshire mourned the collapse of its fabled Old Man of the Mountain, next door neighbor Vermont suffered a similar calamity, as dual downgrades and iffy earnings saw its hometown hero buried under an avalanche of bad news. Billboard behemoth Lamar Advertising (LAMR) lost 9.12%, a crash anyone could hear, yet peer Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) actually rose ahead of today's earnings after saying of Rod Blagojevich, "He never listens."

Prestige Brands (PBH), maker of Murine ear drops, plunged 15.16% after Mexico's Genomma Lab (LABB.MX) decided its acquisition offer of $16.60 per share, a 23% premium, was too steep a price tag. (Just as well, for oddly-positioned price tags have already caused the company no end of grief.) There was plenty to chew over elsewhere, with Weight Watchers (WTW) imploding 18.05%, its single worst session in 11 years, while Scripps Networks (SNI), owner of the Food Channel, surged 7.47% to a fresh high. Avon Products (AVP) was another good gainer, up 5.47%, ironically enough on the birthday of François Coty, the perfume pioneer who founded a firm that Avon rebuffed a $10 billion buyout bid from only last month. And Mark Zuckerberg, who majored in computer science, prepared a $95 billion public offering for Facebook while Scott Thompson, who apparently did not, faced a fresh firestorm. Another frenzied week for first quarter earnings announcements concludes with Arcos Dorados (ARCO), Church & Dwight (CHD), Duke Energy (DUK), Estée Lauder (EL), Federal Signal (FSS), ITT Corp (ITT), Madison Square Garden (MSG), United States Cellular (USM), and Washington Post (WPO) all due to report results.


Microsoft (MSFT): Stifel Nicolaus begins Buy rated coverage on the Dow (^DJI) component, assigning it a price objective of $38. Catalysts include one of the most promising product cycles (encompassing Windows 8, Windows 8 Server, and Office 12) in its history.

Oracle (ORCL): ORCL is resumed with a Buy and $34 target price, also at Stifel. Estimates are expected to climb higher as the year unfolds.

Red Hat (RHT): Shares are initiated with an Outperform by BMO Capital amid a growing platform of middleware, virtualization, big data, and cloud solutions.

AutoNavi Holdings (AMAP): Shares are a new Outperform at Macquarie.

Huntsman Corp (HUN): KeyBanc Capital has a Buy and $20 target on HUN.


Allstate (ALL): Shares, up 4.01% to a fresh 52-week peak yesterday, are boosted to Overweight from Equal Weight by Barclays this morning.

AMN Healthcare Services (AHS): The small cap stock is upgraded to Outperform from Neutral by Robert W. Baird, which takes its target up by $3 to $9 from $6. The company is currently seeing improving trends across all segments, and valuation is seen as attractive relative to earnings power.

Dolby (DLB): DLB is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform with William Blair, which cites a disclosure that Microsoft has decided to include Dolby Digital Plus on all versions of Windows 8 for both PCs and tablets.

FedEx (FDX): Shares are raised to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James.

Gildan Activewear (GIL): GIL gets upgraded to Buy from Hold at Canaccord Genuity.

Health Net (HNT): Goldman Sachs gives the stock a Buy-from-Neutral upgrade.

Iron Mountain (IRM): Highlighting a favorable risk/reward profile regarding its decision on whether to become a real estate investment trust, Citigroup gives a Buy-from-Neutral boost to IRM and takes its target up to $38 from $34.

Lloyds Banking (LYG): LYG is lifted to Buy from Neutral at WestLB.

Multi-Fineline (MFLX): The equity is now Buy from Hold with a $27 target at Needham.

Pioneer Southwest Energy (PSE): PSE is upgraded to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital.

Protalix BioTherapeutics (PLX): The stock is hoisted to Buy from Hold at Auriga, whose target is $9.

Sally Beauty (SBH): Shares are boosted to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays.

SunPower (SPWR): ThinkEquity takes the alternative energy outfit up to Hold from Sell.

Targa Resources (TRGP): TRGP is now Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Walter Energy (WLT): Shares are up before the opening bell on a Buy-from-Hold hoist at Brean Murray.

Weight Watchers (WTW): WTW is upgraded to Buy from Hold at Auriga after yesterday's steep slide.

Westport Innovations (WPRT): JPMorgan moves the name to Neutral from Underweight.

Whole Foods (WFM): JPMorgan moves the upscale grocer, trading at all-time highs after impressive earnings, to Overweight from Neutral.


JPMorgan (JPM): The key Dow component is cut to Underperform from Outperform with an unchanged objective of $43 by CLSA, whose influential banking analyst Mike Mayo cites increased US macro uncertainty and political issues in Europe.

Alpha Natural Resources (ANR): Brean Murray cuts the coal company to Hold from Buy.

Autobytel (ABTL): The microcap is cut to Hold from Buy by brokers Craig Hallum.

Body Central (BODY): BODY is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair and to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray. After earnings, there are concerns its near-term sales trends could be challenging.

Caribou Coffee (CBOU): Shares are downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Dougherty.

DragonWave (DRWI): Jefferies reduces the small cap stock to Hold from Buy.

Gen-Probe (GPRO): GPRO gets downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird, whose objective is $83.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR): More woe for the firm, now Neutral from Buy at Dougherty, which takes its target to $35 from $65.

Hasbro (HAS): The toy firm is taken to Underperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital.

Hyatt Hotels (H): Shares are downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Mednax (MD): Deutsche Bank moves MD to Hold from Buy.

Prudential Financial (PRU): Barclays lowers the life insurer, which tumbled 10.06% yesterday, to Equal Weight from Overweight.

PVH Corp (PVH): The clothing company formerly known as Phillips-Van Heusen is cut to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray, sending the stock lower ahead of the open.

Trimble Navigation (TRMB): TRMB is taken to Hold from Buy at Canaccord due to a lack of growth drivers for continued stock outperformance.
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