RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Some new stock ratings represent a mixed bag of news — some good, rest bad – for Red Hat, BellSouth and Northern Telecom.

The mixture reflects the lack of general enthusiasm on the Street these days. News recently has been about as dismal and cold as the lingering winter.

Standard & Poors downgraded Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) on Thursday to “sell” from “hold”. Analyst Jonathan Rudy cited “pricing pressure for Linux software and services” and valuation of the stock. He cut his 12-month target for the stock to $10 from $13.

Red Hat closed at $11.11 on Thursday, down 6 cents and dropping closer to its 52-week low of $10.40. Its 52-week high is $29.06. Red Hat traded at $16 in December.

BellSouth (NYSE: BLS), meanwhile, is getting analyst coverage from Wachovia. It labeled BellSouth as “outperform”. Three other firms upgraded BellSouth stock in January.

The boost came even as BellSouth remained, publicly at least, of the telecom merger wars that have led to the acquisition of AT&T by SBC and the bidding war between Qwest and Verizon for MCI. Cingular, which is held by BellSouth and SBC, did scoop up AT&T Wireless. But BellSouth is pushing aggressively to drive high-speed Digital Subscriber Line sales and making network upgrades.

Of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, three rate BellSouth as a strong buy, five as a buy, 23 as a hold, four as a sell and one as a strong sell — virtually unchanged from earlier in the year.

BellSouth closed at $25.95 on Thursday, down 8 cents. Its 52-week range has been tight at $25.68-$26.15.

At Nortel (NYSE: NT), the stock is a “hold”, according to S&P, with concern expressed about the firm’s continuing lag in reporting financials. “We are lowering our 12-month target price to $3 from $3.50 to reflect growing concern about Nortel’s competitive ranking,” wrote analyst Kenneth Leon. “Despite shares priced below peers, we would not add to positions.”

Nortel stock climbed 3 cents on Thursday to end at $2.96. Its 52-week low is $2.62, its high $7.87. The stock has dropped from $4 in September.

Red Hat: www.redhat.com

BellSouth: www.bellsouth.com

Nortel: www.Nortel.com