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Stock Downgrades: AIG Told to Take a Hike

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Wall Street ratings agencies set the tone for today's stock market.

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The Academy of Motion Pictures this morning revealed its nominations for best picture. It was won last year by a silent film, and the International Mime Festival began today in London, but on Wall Street money always talks. Shares posted their first win of the week, with retailers to the fore. Ralph Lauren (RL), who wisely changed his last name from Lifshitz, added 2.05% on an analyst upgrade. Elizabeth Arden (RDEN), who inexplicably altered her name from an already-fabulous Florence Nightingale, jumped 3.52%. Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings (CCO), not long after getting into trouble for a suggestive sunglasses billboard, still appears to have a bright future after advancing 2.78%. And toilet bowl cleaning company WD-40 Company (WDFC) surged 9.92% although, if a Dutch politician has his way, we will soon be relieving ourselves elsewhere.

Today in economics, November wholesale trade inventories are expected to tick up slightly at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Earnings activity sees Emmis Communications (EMMS), MSC Industrial Direct (MSM), Supervalu (SVU), Synnex (SNX), Washington Federal (WAFD), and Xyratex (XRTX) all release results.

Alcoa (AA): Macquarie cuts the key Dow (^DJI) component to Underperform from Neutral, its concerns including a price forecast for aluminum.

American International Group (NYSE:AIG): Shares are slipping before the bell after being taken to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo, which is troubled by an overall lack of catalysts. The target price range is also reduced, to $38-$40 from $44-$49.

CBOE Holdings (CBOE): Raymond James reduces its recommendation to Market Perform from Outperform on account of both valuation issues and market share weakness.

Chesapeake Energy (CHK): CHK gets cut to Neutral from Buy at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey.

CIT Group (CIT): The financial firm is now Neutral from Buy at Janney.

Coca-Cola (KO): The Dow company is cut to Hold from Buy at Argus due to its expectations for a slowdown in North American carbonated beverage sales among other issues.

Dunkin' Brands (DNKN): Raymond James reduces its rating to Perform from Outperform.

EMC Corporation (EMC): The tech firm is taken to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

GDF Suez (PINK: GDFZY) Shares in the French utility firm are trading lower in Europe today after JPMorgan Cazenove cut it to Underweight from Neutral.

Hertz Global (HTZ): Morgan Stanley slashes the car rental stock to Underweight from Overweight.

J. Sainsbury (PINK:JSAIY): The British grocer is now Underweight from Neutral amid signs its growth is slowing.

Legg Mason (LM): Keefe Bruyette cuts the financial firm to Market Perform from Outperform due to uncertainty around the CEO search. Its $29 price target remains intact.

MGM Resorts (MGM): Nomura moves MGM to Neutral from Buy.

Microsoft (MSFT): The Dow member is moved to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley, sending the stock lower before this morning's opening bell.

Penn National Gaming (PENN): Lazard cuts the casino company to Neutral from Buy.

Petróleo Brasileiro (PBR): The Latin energy giant better known as Petrobras is lowered to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

Railroads: CSX Corp. (CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NSC) both get Neutral-from-Buy downgrades at Goldman Sachs. (Note that Raymond James inflicted identical cuts on the same two companies this morning.)

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowest the fast food firm to Neutral from Buy.
RWE AG (PINK: RWEOY) A Barclays downgrade from Underweight from Equal-Weight is sending the German energy giant's shares lower in Europe.

Shaw Group (SHAW): Shares are now Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.

St. Jude Medical (STJ): BMO Capital moves the medical device maker to Market Perform from Outperform with a new price objective of $38.

VeriFone Systems (PAY): Shares are slashed to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital, which cites slowing organic growth and recent revenue shortfalls.

Zions Bancorp (ZION): JPMorgan moves the stock to Neutral from Overweight.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Delta Airlines Flying High and New Stock Coverage: LinkedIn Really Working Out.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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