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Upgrades & Downgrades: Double Trouble for IBM


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

The Economist picked a good day to sponsor a pub quiz, cause yesterday's stock market action was enough to drive any investor to drink. Shares slumped after recent good gains, the S&P 500 Index enduring its worst showing for two weeks, while the Dow, all of whose components ended down, returned to the red for 2011. This, after Germany admitted it will be impossible to solve all of Europe's problems by the weekend. (This is news?) While Wall Street protestors continue to insist the answer is blowing in the wind, weather vane collector and Citigroup (C) chairman Richard Parsons saw the onetime corporate welfare recipient report a 74% surge in earnings, to $3.8 billion. Erstwhile Dallas oilman Larry Hagman, no fan of the bank, could take some satisfaction in its shares sliding 1.65%, especially on a day energy outfit El Paso did his home state proud with a 24.81% urge. Not a bad way to mark exactly a decade since Enron's Houston's horror show.

On National Boss Day, big wigs at Lowe's (LOW) took 1,950 employees out to the woodshed and announced they would be fired. And Kenneth Cole Productions (KCP) fell 3.27% after an analyst downgrade. The always-controversial footwear firm should clearly give its current advertising agency the boot and choose a new one. Although maybe not Madison Avenue giant Interpublic Group (IPG), which itself slid 7.12% on a similar ratings reduction. Day two of week one in third quarter earnings season sees Apple Inc (AAPL), Bank of America (BAC) Coca-Cola Co (KO), Goldman Sachs Group (GS), Harley Davidson (HOG), Intel (INTC), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Yahoo (YHOO) all due to report results.


(AA): The Dow member is begun with a Buy and $13 price objective at Stifel Nicolaus, which says the stock price underperformance vs. peers over the past decade will reverse as Alcoa increases exposure to higher-value downstream end markets.

Financial stocks: Brokerage William Blair begins key Dow component American Express (AXP) with an Outperform, along with Mastercard (MA), Visa (V), Western Union (WU), Dollar Financial (DLLR), Moneygram (MGI), Cardtronics (CATM), and Financial Engines (FNGN). It assigns Market Performs on Alliance Data Systems (ADS), Capital One Financial (COF), and credit card company Discover Financial Services (DFS).

Coach (COH): The luxury retailer is initiated with a Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Celanese (CE): CE is started with a Buy at Ticonderoga, which establishes a price objective of $52. The company has discovered a new, low-cost process for the production of ethanol.

Tech stocks: Broadcom (BRCM) is begun with a Buy at Societe Generale, which has a Hold on Qualcomm (QCOM).

Specialty retail sector: FBR Capital covers the following at Outperform: Urban Outfitters (URBN), ANN Inc (ANN), Chico's FAS (CHS), and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF). Its Market Performs include Fossil (FOSL), Aeropostale (ARO), and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO). Also read Retail Sector Technical Breakdown and Report.

Children's Place Retail Stores (PLCE) is an Underperform amid macro uncertainty and input cost inflation.

Wright Express (WXS): WXS is assigned an Outperform at William Blair.

Green Dot (GDOT): The shares get picked up at Outperform by William Blair.

Medical device makers: Medtronic (MDT) is a fresh Outperform at Cowen & Company, which has new Neutrals on both Boston Scientific (BSX) and St. Jude Medical (STJ).

Transportation stocks: RailAmerica (RA) is resumed with a Sector Perform at RBC Capital, which has Outperforms on KC Southern (KSU) and Genesee & Wyoming (GWR).

Thompson Creek Metals (TC): TC is initiated with an Underperform at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.
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