"I fear we have awoken a sleeping giant." So said Admiral Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. That same year Standard and Poor's started rating United States credit at AAA, where it remained ever since until August 5th. Since that time the S&P 500 Index has increased 8.9%; perhaps the unprecedented downgrade was just the wakeup call Wall Street needed. Stocks ended the month with four straight days of gains and seven increases in eight, blue chips turning positive for the year yesterday after an unexpected uptick in factory orders. Still, all three major indices haven't been this underwater in August since 2001′s Summer of the shark, back when we were transfixed by trivia when true terror lay just days away. A month of extrodinary volatility was exquisitely encapsulated by yesterday's action in Monster Worldwide (MWW), whose fall of 4.74% made it the S&P 500′s poorest performer only twenty-fours after being its best. Bond guru and part time philatelist Bill Gross, busy berating himself for "mistakes", can at least take some comfort in a 9.35% surge in Stamps.com (STMP) to a new high on Wednesday.
Other big winners included The Fresh Market (TFM) and Vera Bradley Inc (VRA), up a respective 10.82% and 14.82%, doubtless delighting arch capitalist, greengrocer's daughter, and handbag aficionado Margaret Thatcher. David Cameron, her successor as Conservative party Prime Minister, will take heart in Research in Motion's (RIMM) monthly gain of 29.96%, especially as he claims to govern the country by BlackBerry. And gold hit a new nominal high of $1,891.90 on August 22nd en route to its biggest monthly increase since 2009. Impressive, even if big yellow taxis still offer better investment returns than bullion. This morning in economics, consensus calls for a decline in the August ISM manufacturing index at 10:00AM Eastern while July construction spending, out at the same time, is forecast to come in essentially flat. On the earnings front Charming Shoppes (CHRS), Ciena (CIEN), H&R Block (HRB), Methode Electronics (MEI), Movado (MOV), Pernod Ricard, Quiksilver (ZQK), and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) are all due to report results.
HCA Holdings (HCA): HCA is initiated with a Buy rating and $28 price objective at Auriga, which says they are well-positioned to benefit from, among other favorable factors, margin expansion driven by company's scale and management's experience.
NVIDIA (NVDA): NVDA is begun with a Buy and $18 target price at Kaufman Brothers, which views it as a major beneficiary of the convergence of mobility and computing.
Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM): Jefferies has a Hold on TSM.
Education Stocks: Universal Technical Institute (UTI), National American University (NAUH), and K12 (LNR) are all begun with Buys at Wunderlich, which has a Hold and $11 objective on Lincoln Educational Services (LINC).
Portugal Telecom (PT): PT is a new Neutral at Credit Suisse.
Arch Coal (ACI): BMO Capital boosts the energy outfit to Outperform from Market Perform.
Societe Generale: The French firm is now Outperform from Neutral at Exane BNP Paribas.
Volvo: Staying overseas, Citi hoists Swedish car company Volvo to Hold from Sell.
Trimble Navigation (TRMB): Piper Jaffray takes TRMB to Overweight from Neutral.
Medtronic (MDT): Argus upgrades the medical device maker to Hold from Sell on a more compelling valuation.
Concho Resources (CXO): CXO is upgraded to Outperform from Perform at brokers Morgan Keegan, which says the Permian machine continues to churn out high-margin oil growth.
Energy Stocks: Atlas Pipeline (APL) and Enbridge Energy (EEP) are each moved to Outperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo. For related content, see Russia and China's Energy Dispute and the Struggle for Eurasian Dominance.
Cognizant Tech (CTSH): The stock now Strong Buy from Buy at Needham.
Qualcomm (QCOM): QCOM is added to the Top Picks Live list at Citigroup.
WESCO International (WCC): Oppenheimer upgrades WCC to Outperform from Perform.
Healthways (HWAY): Piper Jaffray hoists HWAY to Overweight from Neutral.
Brightpoint (CELL): Citigroup raises its CELL rating to Buy from Hold.
Goldman Sachs (GS): The financial firm gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at ISI Group.
Fiat SpA: Italian car firm Fiat is reduced to Hold from Buy at Citigroup.
RPM International (RPM): RPM is downgraded to Underperform at Oppenheimer, which says it is taking advantage of the market bounce to reposition for recession.
Kaman (KAMN): The stock is reduced to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.
WisdomTree (WETF): Citi pulls the stock from its Top Picks Live list.
Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH): Citing increasingly hard industry headwinds, Stifel cuts the consulting giant to Hold from Buy.