Bell Atlantic leads telco charge

Shares of telecommunications provider Bell Atlantic Corp. (NYSE: BEL) surged up 2 1/16, or 4 percent, to 57 1/2 Tuesday after a pair of institutional investment houses boosted its rating to a "strong buy."

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter initiated coverage of Bell Atlantic with a "strong buy" recommendation while CIBC World Markets raised it from a "hold" to a "strong buy."

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter started coverage on eight different telecommunications stocks Tuesday, most with either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

Bell Atlantic shares moved up to a 52-week high of 61 3/16 in April after falling to a low of 40 7/16 in August.

After Tuesday's upgrades, the stock is now rated either a "buy" or "strong buy" by 19 of the 26 analysts following it.

First Call consensus expects it to earn 76 cents a share in its second quarter and $3.01 a share in the fiscal year.

Last quarter, Bell Atlantic pocketed $1.15 billion, or 73 cents a share.

Among other widely held telecommunications stocks, MCI WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM) moved up 9/16 to 91 7/8 and GTE Corp. (NYSE: GTE) added 2 1/4 to 66 3/4.