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New Stock Coverage: American Express Is Off to the Races


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL This year's summer solstice arrived 24 hours early but its aftermath certainly left investors a dollar short on an especially dark day. Major averages endured their second worst session of 2012, erasing their weekly gains in the process, amid a worldwide wall of woe. Disappointing economic data here at home twinned with similarly sluggish readings in China and Germany; for once Greece was kept from the front page. (The Mediterranean version that is - the disgraceful treatment of a grandmother from an upstate New York town of the same name got the global attention it deserved.)

Shares accelerated their declines after Goldman Sachs (GS) said to short the S&P 500 (^GSPC) barely three months after its "hello stocks, goodbye bonds" call created a contrarian boom in the latter. That economists were made to make weather forecasters look good quickly became apparent when a meteorological forecaster predicted 775-degree temperatures. It wasn't quite that hot yesterday, but horrific humidity in the Northeast made it an odd time for an analyst to upgrade VF Corp (VFC), maker of North Face sweaters and fleeces. Meanwhile Under Armour (UA), whose apparel soaks up sweat, slid 6.38% on a downgrade; go figure. No top-tier economic data due this morning but Carnival Corp. (CCL) and Darden Restaurants (DRI) are expected to announce earnings.

Amtrust Financial (AFSI): Shares are started at a Neutral by JPMorgan.

Apparel companies: JPMorgan establishes new Neutrals on Polo Ralph Lauren (RL), Warnaco Group (WRC), and PVH Corp (PVH), the former Phillips-Van Heusen. It begins Overweight rated research on V.F. Corp (VFC).

Beam Inc. (BEAM): JPMorgan starts the spirits maker at a Neutral.

Cloud Peak Energy (CLD): CLD is covered with a Neutral at JPMorgan.

Consumer Finance/Credit Card Companies: Telsey Advisory Group assigns Positives on Dow (^DJI) component American Express (AXP) ($68 target), Discover Financial (DFS) ($40), Alliance Data Systems (ADS) ($151), and Capital One Financial (COF) ($69).

Cisco Systems (CSCO): ThinkEquity has a Hold, and $18 objective, on the Dow member.

Cosmetics companies: Elizabeth Arden (RDEN) and Estée Lauder (EL) are each initiated with Outperforms at Wells Fargo.

Crocs Inc (CROX): Shares are begun with a Buy and $23 target by Benchmark Company, which believes in the long-term viability of the brand given its transformation from a one-hit wonder to a multi-channel retailer with a diverse product offering.

Facebook (FB): Shares are a fresh Buy at Nomura.

Financials: Something for everyone in the sector today from Goldman Sachs, which starts Evercore (EVR) at a Sell, begins Raymond James (RJF) at a Buy, and has new Neutrals on Duff & Phelps (DUF), Greenhill (GHL), Jefferies Group (JEF), Lazard (LAZ), LPL Investment (LPLA), and Stifel Financial (SF).

Health Care: Mizuho begins Buy rated research on AmerisourceBergen (ABC), assigning a price objective of $42. It has new Neutrals on Cardinal Health (CAH) and McKesson (MCK).

Masimo Corp (MASI): The medical appliance outfit is covered with a Buy at ThinkEquity.

Sherwin-Williams (SHW): Shares are a new Neutral at Robert W. Baird.

Synergy Resources (SYRG): The stock is begun with a Buy at Wunderlich.

Tech stocks: Skyworks (SWKS) is begun with a Buy at Canaccord Genuity, which has Holds on RF Micro Devices (RFMD) and TriQuint Semiconductor (TQNT).

T. Rowe Price (TROW): Shares are begun with a Buy at Argus.

Tutor Perini (TPC): Saying that the company is a leading contractor in general building and civil construction markets, Imperial Capital covers TPC at an Outperform. Its objective is $16.

Universal Display (PANL): Deutsche Bank picks up PANL at a Buy.

Weatherford International (WFT): Shares are up sharply before the bell after being initiated with an Outperform at Macquarie.

Westlake Chemical (WLK): The stock is resumed with a Neutral at JPMorgan.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Jack in the Box Has Spring in Its Step and Stock Downgrades: No Medal of Honor for Electronic Arts.)
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