Stocks in the News: banks, CVX, WMTThe following is a round-up of news likely to affect stock prices today:

Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Bank of America (BAC) are just five of 18 banks that masked the level of risk they took over the last five quarters by lowering their debt levels just before recording the figures publicly, the Wall Street Journal reported, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), which was initially a beneficiary of the recession but has recently seen U.S. sales slowing, is cutting prices on thousands of products in an aggressive campaign to reinforce its reputation as a discount leader, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Chevron Corp. (CVX) said late Thursday its first quarter earnings are likely to be better than fourth quarter results, but didn't discuss specific numbers. Shares rose nearly 1% in premarket trading.

Ambac Financial Group (ABK) reported a profit for the fourth quarter, compared to a net loss last year, and shares are soaring ahead of the bell.

Rio Tinto PLC (RTP) said Friday it is moving to quarterly pricing of iron ore contracts, joining its fellow mining companies in a controversial switch that signals the end of benchmark annual pricing. As world demand for iron ore reaches record levels, miners are trying to capitalize, making buyers worry they will face a series of price rises over a year.

AK Steel (AKS), meanwhile, said on Thursday said it is immediately increasing prices for its carbon steel products by $40 per ton over spot market base prices, effective with all new orders for such products.

Ford Motor Co. (F) and Intel Corp. (INTC) may drive the first back-to-back quarterly profit gains among U.S. companies since 2007 as demand climbs in the economic recovery, Bloomberg reported from data it compiled. Further, earnings for Standard & Poor's 500 Index members probably rose 30% in the first quarter.

American Airlines (AMR) CEO says his company isn't threatened by reports of a possible merger between United Airways (UAUA) and US Airways (LCC), even if the merged company would be a bigger airline than American. He says American is well positioned in what he called the most important U.S. hubs, the Associated Press reported.

Genworth (GNW) had its credit rating affirmed by Moody's, which also changed the outlook to stable from negative. Shares rose 1% in premarket trades.

Boston Scientific Corp (BSX) rose in after hours after sources told Reuters the company hired a financial adviser to sell two units. Shares were 1% higher before the bell.

Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) said it will sell its terminal operation and discontinued operations in Delaware City to the Delaware City Refining Co. and Delaware Pipeline Co. for $220 million.

Analyst calls:
  • Goldman Sachs upgraded J.C. Penney Company (JCP) from neutral to buy and added the stock to its conviction buy list. Goldman also raised the price target from $32 to $37. Shares jumped over 3%
  • TJX Companies (TJX), however, was removed from Goldman's conviction buy list, but kept its buy rating.
  • J.P. Morgan downgraded Alcoa (AA) to neutral from overweight and removed it from its focus list. JPMorgan also lowered the price target from $21.50 to $16.50. Shares dropped over 1%.

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