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Upgrades & Downgrades: Dole Can't Dodge Banana Skin


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

Beleaguered investors who prop up the pub at Stocks and Blondes, voted the most misnamed bar in Chicago due to its lack of fair-haired beauties, at least have a fitting venue to drown their copious sorrows resulting from the failure of a congressional panel that answers to the scandalously inappropriate title of "Super Committee." What hope for the rest of us? The failure to reach a deficit deal sent S&P 500 shares down for a fourth straight day, the index ending back below 1,200 even as Dow Industrials are now negative for the year. Evidently deliberating for two months, the length of a Kim Kardashian marriage, wasn't long enough for an agreement. In fact the additional treats of something old (Europe, yet again), something new (Moody's hint that it may downgrade France), something borrowed ($15 trillion in money we don't have), and something blue (Tiffany (TIF) tumbling 4.73% at the start of what is supposed to be a stellar shopping week), only added to the anxiety. Financials again performed worst, with Bank of America (BAC) falling 5.02% for the Dow's poorest showing. Clearly Scott Swift will have to toil away for a few more years yet at the firm's Merrill Lynch unit in order to retire. Thankfully the broker's daughter, woman of the hour Taylor Swift - fresh from last night's sold-out money-spinning gig at Madison Square Garden - should be able to help out some. Indeed the chanteuse may be the last remaining person in America currently on course to out-earn her parents.

Fellow black-and-blue chip Wal-Mart (WMT) followed up last week's 3.3% slide by losing another 1.00%, this despite an analyst upgrade. The Bentonville behemoth is the world's second largest employer after the Chinese army, and may yet be required to fight for our honor should U.S.-Sino relations continue on their current perilous path. A ratings reduction saw BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM), a longtime favorite of Obama, slide 4.56% to a new low new low; on this, as with apparently much else, the current Oval Office occupant appears to be all thumbs. Elsewhere in the presidential portfolio Camelot Information Systems (CIS) tumbled 10.89% on the eve of today's anniversary of Camelot's end. And, as Thanksgiving approaches, Pilgrim's Pride (PPC) gained 4.80%. Alas, the time to "talk turkey" is long gone. Today in economics, we get the minutes to the FOMC's November 1-2 meeting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Earnings are expected out of American Woodmark (AMWD), Books-A-Million (BAMM), Campbell Soup (CPB), Chico's FAS (CHS), Diana Containerships (DCIX), Eaton Vance (EV), Genesco (GCO), LDK Solar (LDK), Medtronic (MDT), and TiVo Inc (TIVO).


Microsoft (MSFT): The Dow member is picked up with a Hold at ThinkEquity.

Delta Air Lines (DAL): DAL is a new Outperform at Raymond James.

Dolby Laboratories (DLB): The stock is initiated with a Market Perform at JMP Securities.

Marriot Vacations (VAC): Goldman Sachs starts VAC at a Neutral.

Apparel stocks: Citigroup begins Buys on both True Religion (TRLG) and Iconix Brand (ICON).

Tech stocks: Akamai Technologies (AKAM) and Rackspace Hosting (RAX) are each resumed with Outperform ratings at Wells Fargo, which establishes respective price objectives of $36 and $55.50.

Intuit (INTU): The TurboTax owner is begun with a Buy at ThinkEquity.

Sigma-Aldrich (SIAL): The stock is a new Overweight at JPMorgan.

Deere (DE): Credit Agricole assigns a Buy on the industrial outfit.

Tesla Motors (TSLA): Wunderlich has a new Hold and sets a $30 target price.

Two Harbors Investment (TWO): Shares are a new Neutral at Sterne Agee.

China Kanghui (KH): Oppenheimer initiates an Outperform on a company it calls among the leading domestic players in China's trauma and spine implant market. Its target is $20.


News Corp (NWSA): The media giant is now Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna.

AutoNation (AN): Shares get a Neutral-from-Sell boost at Goldman Sachs.

Gilead Sciences (GILD): BMO Capital moves GILD to Outperform from Market Perform.

NVIDIA (NVDA): NVDA is now Buy from Underperform at Needham, which has an $18 objective. Attach rates for graphics have not fallen as expected but rather remained stable, which is one of several catalysts the brokerage sees for 2012 .

Collective Brands (PSS): The parent of Payless shoes is increased to Buy from Hold at Auriga.


Amgen (AMGN): The biotech giant gets downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital.

AFLAC (AFL): If it quacks like a duck it must be a downgrade, the insurance outfit now Neutral from Buy at Suntrust.

Dole Food: The produce powerhouse is lowered to Underperform from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Trina Solar (TSL): Auriga takes TSL to Sell from Hold.

Wynn Resorts (WYNN): Janney Montgomery Scott reduces its recommendation on the casino company to Neutral from Buy, sending shares lower before the bell.

Standard Motor (SMP): SMP is downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman.

Pharmasset (VRUS): VRUS is cut to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan, among many other brokerage firms this morning, since shares are no longer trading on fundamentals following its acquisition by Gilead Sciences (GILD).


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