CHANGE IN RATINGS

Aventine Energy ( AVR) downgraded at Credit Suisse to Underperform from Neutral based on weak Q4 results and real risk of bankruptcy.

Consolidated Edison ( ED) upgraded at Jefferies from Hold to Buy. $40 price target. Valuation call, as the company will likely receive a positive rate order from state regulators next month.

Frontier Oil ( FTO) downgraded at BofA/Merrill to Underperform from Neutral based on valuation and a less favorable earnings outlook. Lowered target price to $15 from $16.

Intel ( INTC) upgraded at Needham to a buy with $18 price target. Although visibility into 2H09 remains clouded, Needham believes that normalized inventory levels and the upside potential for Intel in new opportunities outweights the risks from new competitors in the netbook market.

Leap Wireless ( LEAP) upgraded at Thomas Weisel to buy with a $43 price target. Recent market launches (Chicago, Philadelphia) and positive outlook for prepaid carriers bode well for LEAP's growth story.

Eli Lilly ( LLY) upgraded at Citigroup from Hold to Buy. $41 price target. Estimates also raised to reflect price increases and higher volumes.

Lincoln National ( LNC) downgraded at Merrill/BofA from Neutral to Underperform. $10 price target. Company has a bad combination of credit exposure and equity market risk without much of a capital cushion.

MetLife ( MET) upgraded at Merrill/BofA to Buy. $32 price target. Company is a market leader, and trading at just 90% of reported book value.

Northeast Utilities ( NU) downgraded at Jefferies from Buy to Hold. $22.50 price target. Valuation call, as the company is spending a lot on construction.

Taleo ( TLEO) upgraded at Oppenheimer to Outperform from Perform. Believes accounting review is largely behind it and expects long-term fundamentals of its business to remain intact. Sets $13 target price.

STOCK COMMENTS / EPS CHANGES

Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) numbers cut at UBS to $58. Estimates also lowered, because of lower numbers from the acquired LASIK business. Buy rating.

Allstate ( ALL) estimates cut through 2010, target lowered at UBS. Company has nearly $7 billion in net unrealized investment losses and may need more capital. Neutral rating and new $19 price target.

Barnes & Noble ( BKS) price target raised at Goldman Sachs based on expected stabilization in fundamentals. Believe cost cutting and response to eBook phenomenon will be key in Thursday's quarterly result announcement. Note that 1% expense reduction would translate to about 13 cents in annual EPS. Maintained Neutral rating.

Continental Airlines ( CAL) estimates cut through 2010 at Morgan Stanley. Company is seeing its RASM drop and cargo/mail volume is also down. Overweight rating and $25 price target.

Discover Financial ( DFS) estimates cut at Barclays through 2010. Company is facing rising credit costs. Equal-weight rating and $11 price target.

Darden Restaurants ( DRI) numbers raised at Barclays to $36. Estimates also increased, to reflect cost-cutting and industry-leading comp sales growth. Stock deserves a premium multiple. Overweight rating.

Sealed Air ( SEE) estimates cut through 2010, target reduced at UBS. Company will have to fund an asbestos trust, with WR Grace likely to come out of bankruptcy next year. Neutral rating and new $13 price target.

United Technologies ( UTX) numbers reduced at Morgan Stanley to $48. Estimates also cut, to reflect lower numbers at Carrier. Equal-weight rating.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.

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