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Upgrades & Downgrades: UniCredit Sinks Deeper Into Debt


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

If a tree falls in Germany's Black Forest on an otherwise tumbleweed Wall Street trading session, sandwiched in between this week's mini Black Monday and this morning's Black Friday, does it may a noise? You betcha. Wednesday's NYSE volume may have been a well-below-average 3.8 billion shares, but investors everywhere still heard loud signs of Teutonic trouble. Dow industrials tumbled 236.17 points and the S&P 500 dropped for a sixth successive session after a "disastrous" German bund auction left markets anxious that economic woes are now affecting even the strongest economy in Europe. (Faint praise of course - it's all relative, as a genius German once showed us with scientific certainty.) Berlin doggy bagged leftovers a day early, fully 40% of its $8.1 billion in 10-year bonds left unsold amid worryingly weak demand. (Yesterday while you were sleeping, tripped out on tryptophan, Frankfurt dropped for a ninth straight day as European stocks slipped again after Fitch cut Portugal's credit rating to junk.) There was indeed no excuse not to see the forest for the trees, what with Deltic Timber (DEL) sliding 6.34% and Resolute Forest Products (ABH) falling 4.96% after an analyst downgrade of the Canadian newsprint maker on a day a noteworthy son of a newspaper scion fell further from grace.

Other stocks given the hump on Hump Day included Patriot Coal (PCX), which slumped 8.16% as commodities cratered; clearly no one wanted the fossil fuel in their stocking at the start of the holiday season. Elsewhere Bank of America (BAC) yet again outpaced all Dow decliners, losing 4.28% to end near a new low. The financial firm may have dropped plans for its $5 debit fee, but with its stock having now dropped to within 14 cents of such a lamentably low level, shareholders are certainly paying the price. And ahead of the highest calorie consumption of the year, China's Country Style Cooking Restaurant Chain ADS (CCSC) went on a diet, slumping 16.67% to post the NYSE's worst performance. This only hours after the erstwhile Asian Tiger reported factory orders contracted by the steepest amount in 32 months, a timely reminder that Europe may soon be the least of our troubles. No top-tier corporate earnings or economic data out today, and it's a shortened session in equities with the stock market set to close at 1:00 pm Eastern. So pay homage to the most famous hooky player in history, take the afternoon off, and spend some time trying to Win Ben Stein's Money on this, the actor and intermittent economics teacher's 67th birthday.


Anglo Platinum (AGPPY): The stock is assigned a Neutral at HSBC Securities.

CGGVeritas (CGV): Brokerage Collins Stewart covers the company at a Hold.

Lonmin plc (LMNIY): Société Générale picks up the precious metal miner at a Sell


AXA SA (AXAHY): Goldman Sachs gives the insurance outfit an upgrade to Buy from Neutral.

Mobile TeleSystems (MBT): Shares get a Buy-from-Neutral boost at UBS.


Anglo American plc (AAUKY): The British-based mining giant gets moved to Hold from Buy at Société Générale.

AEGON N.V. (AEG): The Dutch insurer is now Neutral from Buy at Goldman, sending shares slumping ahead of the opening bell.

Advantage Oil and Gas (AAV): AAV gets lowered to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.

UniCredit SpA (UNCFF) : Italy's biggest bank, whose shares trade over the counter in America under ticker symbol UNCFF, is now Neutral from Buy on Friday at Nomura, which takes its target down to €0.9 from €1. Revenues and credit quality remain concerns.

China Real Estate Information Corporation (CRIC): Shares are cut to Market Perform from Outperform with brokers William Blair.

VimpelCom (VIP): UBS reduces its rating on the telecom services provider to Neutral from Buy.

Prysmian SpA: Stock in the Italian cable company is sharply lower in Milan this morning after UBS reduced its rating to Neutral from Buy, citing both valuation and broader market issues.


No positions in stocks mentioned.
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