Analyst Ups Solar Ratings, Though Hardly Bullish

Solar shares enjoyed a nice rally on Monday, but the sector remains largely in the red over the past five sessions.

The solar sector got hammered last week as major benchmarks plummeted, and high-flying Chinese players lost favor amid talks of lending restrictions. Solar stocks rebounded on Monday, and Jeffries put out a handful of upgrades Tuesday morning. Still, the analyst is hardly shouting for investors to load up on shares.

SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWRA – News) received the only Buy rating, but Jeffries lowered the stock’s price target to $29 from $30. Shares have slipped by -14.3% in the month ended at Monday’s close, making SunPower a laggard among Solar Stocks Index components.

Jeffries also upgraded Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE: STP – News), Solarfun Power Holdings (NASDAQ: SOLF – News), and China Sunergy (NASDAQ: CSUN – News), all from Underperform to Hold. [Read the full article]

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Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE:VZ – News) reported stronger-than-expected mobile customer growth thanks to wholesale partners like America Movil’s (Mexico:AMXL.MX – News) Tracfone, but its fixed-line business disappointed investors.

Hefty severance costs pushed Verizon into the red in the fourth quarter, though results excluding the costs, and revenue were in line with Wall Street expectations. Shares of the company were slightly higher in premarket trading.

“It was a solid quarter but not great,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen. “Retail wireless subscribers were in line with expectations. [Read the full article]

The gains were slim, the volume slight, and the finish sluggish but stocks did manage to Kiss their three-day slump goodbye with a little help from Gene Simmons. A day after Big Apple bravado proved premature, Cupertino’s Apple (AAPL) showed that speaking softly more often carries a big uptick. The firm famous for its conservative forecasts once again handily beat the Street, even if it erred in failing to issue Apples-to-Apples accounting. With Big Mac sales (up 33%) boostimg its bottom line; McDonald’s (MCD) — in the red on the day — was green only with envy. Steak place Benihana (BNHN) also failed to sizzle, sliding 11.84%, but Ben Bernanke enjoyed a better day with his renomination as Fed head seemingly secure. See also What I Would Do as Fed Chairman.

That his job is to burst bubbles before they begin was made clear as Sealed Air (SEE) deflated 1.81% on the day its plastic pops turned 50. [Read the full article]

Kaufman Bros. analyst Suji De Silva said he is encouraged by the recovery in semiconductor demand, but thinks Texas Instruments has little room to improve profit margins and that will restrain its stock price.

In a note to investors Tuesday, De Dilva said the benefits of operating closer to production capacity should be leveling off, as expenses are set to start growing again and demand is highest for chips with lower margins. De Silva maintained a “Hold” rating on the company’s stock and trimmed his price target to $26 from $28.

Texas Instruments, based in Dallas, on Monday reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit of $655 million, or 52 cents a share. Revenue rose 21 percent to $3.01 billion, in line with estimates. [Read the full article]

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