Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Alon USA Energy (NYSE:ALJ), a refiner and marketer of petroleum products in the south central, southwestern, and western U.S., popped as much as 11% after the company received an upgrade from Credit Suisse before the opening bell.

So what: Credit Suisse upgraded Alon USA Energy from neutral to outperform and boosted its price target from $16 to $19, implying 37% upside based on yesterday's closing price. This actually marks the second upgrade by Credit Suisse on Alon just since November. The upgrade was based on improved West Coast logistics in Bakersfield, Calif., where Alon has an opportunity to improve its ability to increase crude-by-rail offtake.

Now what: As always, I would remind investors that analyst actions are often short-term share-price drivers that rarely have any effect on our long-term investment thesis. The refining sector has been smacked by weakened crack spreads in the fourth quarter. However, those spreads have been improving over the past couple of weeks and could lend to market-topping results in the first quarter. At just 11 times forward earnings, Alon USA Energy isn't particularly expensive, but investors should understand that the refining business tends to be highly cyclical, and factor that into their investment outlook.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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