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Stock Upgrades: Bet the House on KB Home?


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Moody's (MCO) - which rated Enron investment grade even as that company hurtled towards the abyss - has cut Italy's bond rating by two notches. Romans everywhere are dusting off their old Latin dictionaries and asking themselves "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" or "Who will guard the guardians?"

"Who will outsource the outsourcers?" is the question of the day in Bombay after Indian offshoring giant Infosys (INFY) imploded 11.16% to a fresh all-time low. In France, Peugeot (PEUGY) is plunging in Paris after firing 14,000 employees ahead of tomorrow's Bastille Day fireworks. President Francois Hollande was whisked to his recent inaugural in the automaker's Citroën DS5 diesel hybrid yet only hours later his plane was struck by lightening in a torrential downpour. Après Sarkozy, le déluge?

This morning in economics, the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment survey for July is expected to tick up slightly at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. In earnings action, JPMorgan (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) are each already out with results.

Merck (MRK): A second upgrade in as many days for the key Dow (^DJI) component, a strong performer yesterday. This morning it is moved to Outperform from Perform with a $45 objective at MP Advisors.

Carrefour (CRRFY): The European retailer is raised to Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

CMS Energy (CMS): CMS is upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo.

CTC Media (CTCM): Deutsche Bank boosts the stock to Buy from Hold.

Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY): Shares are trading higher in Europe today on a Neutral-from-Underperform boost by Credit Suisse.

Digital Realty Trust (DLR): DLR is raised to Buy from Hold at Jefferies.

France Télécom (FNCTF): Citi's upgrade to Neutral from Underweight is sending the stock up in Paris this morning.

KB Home (KBH): Shares are now Buy from Neutral at MKM Partners, which also increases its objective by $3 to $13. Catalysts include acceleration in new home sales this autumn.

Kinder Morgan Partners (KMP): Shares are now Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

Range Resources (RRC): RRC is raised to Outperform from Neutral with a $72 target at Robert W. Baird, which says shares offer an attractive opportunity to invest in a long-term gas producer with attractive low-cost asset base.

Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI): The stock gets upgraded to Buy from Sell at Goldman.

Thoratec (THOR): THOR is now Buy from Neutral at Goldman.

Vivendi (VIVEF): The stock is boosted to Neutral from Underperform by BNP Paribas.

Whiting Petroleum (WLL): Macquarie moves the equity to Outperform from Neutral.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Dean Foods Cries Over Spilled Milk and New Stock Coverage: Quick Bucks in Fast Food.)
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