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New Stock Coverage: Is Aflac All It's Quacked Up to Be?


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

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The market's mood swings while weighing prospects of more "monetary morphine" suggest what it really needs is bipolar medication. Dow Industrials (^DJI) oscillated between losses and gains of 80-odd points as Fed head Ben Bernanke took to Capitol Hill to deliver a downbeat assessment of the US economy. Shares eventually ended firmly positive in below-average trading amid hopes that further quantitative easing may be in the works.

Also boosting bourses was the biggest monthly jump in home builders' confidence for almost ten years. Barbie owner Mattel (MAT), which earlier this year bought the company behind Bob the Builder for $680 million cash, certainly had cause to be confident. Its shares surged 9.70%, flirting with a 14-year peak and further infuriating Iran's Ayatollas. Vivus (VVUS), though it is surging this morning, slumped 7.82% yesterday as approval for its diet drug was weighed. Hey, in a world where chocolate is a health food and pizza a vegetable, who needs a pill? (Papa John's (PZZA) promptly surged 2.01% to an historic high as a result.)

This morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Ben Bernanke concludes his semi-annual testimony to Congress, and the Fed's Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions is released at 2:00 p.m. Hump day of peak week for Q2 earnings is here, with American Express (AXP), Bank of America (BAC), Credit Suisse (CS), eBay Inc. (EBAY), and International Business Machines (IBM) among a multitude of announcements.

Aflac (AFL): The insurance outfit, home of the ubiquitous advertising duck, is a new Neutral at UBS. The company carries a price objective of $44.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN): Oppenheimer assigns an Outperform rating, and $100 target price, on ALXN.

Autos: Ford Motor (F) ($13 target) and General Motors (GM) ($29) are each Overweights at JPMorgan.

8×8 Inc (EGHT): Shares are initiated with an Outperform by brokers William Blair.

Gilead Sciences (GILD): GILD gets begun with a Buy and $70 target at Maxim Group, which says it is in the lead for the next second-generation hepatitis C virus daily combination therapy.

MetLife (MET): UBS begins Buy rated coverage on MET.

Ocean RIG UDW (ORIG): Shares are initiated with a Buy at Dahlman Rose.

Shutterfly (SFLY): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch launches Buy rated research on SFLY.

StanCorp Financial (SFG): Shares are initiated with a Sell at UBS.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Tiffany's Time to Shine and Stock Downgrades: Caterpillar Not Playing in Peoria.)
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