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Stock Downgrades: Dumb Down CliffsNotes Owner Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


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

So for all of Chicken Little's warnings about Ukraine, the sky isn't falling on equities. You can't blame him for being concerned however -- who'd want to end up a Chicken Kiev? Instead, and on the day Buffalo chicken wings celebrated their 50th birthday, stocks took flight, with the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) appropriately setting its 50th record of the past year. The benchmark bourse ironically ended at 1877, which students of history will recall was the year of the Russo-Turkish War. A salient reminder that Moscow's land-grab for warm water ports is absolutely nothing new, and indeed dates all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. Sam Cooke, clearly a CliffsNotes student, said, "Don't know much about history. But I do know that I love you." Love was in the air at Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), which hit a historic high, but certainly not for a spurned-at-the-altar Spark Networks (NYSE:LOV) after it imploded 18.98%. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) finally found Aerosmith's elusive love in an elevator as a tell-all book banishment gave the bank a real lift. Romance was in the air as Kim Kardashian announced her knot-tying plans. "We're having a super, super small, intimate wedding," said she. To the entire world. Perhaps because no one believes that, an utterly smitten Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) promptly hit an all-time best. And the alleged inventor of Bitcoin led paparazzi reporters on a high-speed car chase through the streets of SoCal. I only hope they took 118 West to the 23 South, cause there's killer construction on the 405. After that, head straight on La Cienega to Santa Monica, hang a left on San Vicente, and you'll be at La Ventura in a Manhattan Beach minute. Whatever -- please understand it isn't my intention to insult the elocution of Californians. Indeed, it has been scientifically shown that we all speak like Valley Girls now. Even a 69-year-old male billionaire based in Laguna Beach. "I'm so sick of Mohamed trying to undermine me," he supposedly said, sounding suspiciously like that chick from Clueless.
Today in economics, January consumer credit is expected to contract from the prior month's pace at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, expect earnings announcements out of Big Lots (NYSE:BIG), Foot Locker (NYSE:FL), and Genesco (NYSE:GCO).
Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR): Amid an increasingly difficult coal price backdrop, Goldman Sachs slashes the commodity company to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.
American Capital Mortgage (NASDAQ:MTGE): Shares get downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank due to valuation.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ:HMHC): The clever clogs at Goldman Sachs are slashing this Boston-based educational publisher, whose offerings include CliffsNotes, to Neutral from America's Buy list following its fourth quarter loss. Stifel (Hold from Buy) adds to the agony, so a Breakfast Club spell in Saturday detention awaits tomorrow. Indeed, Friday ain't looking so hot either, with shares falling some 4.52% as I write.
Humana (NYSE:HUM): Jefferies cuts the company to Hold from Buy.
HSBC Holdings (NYSE:HSBC): Europe's biggest bank is trading lower today after getting pulled from Goldman's Pan-European Conviction Buy list.
Kindred Biosciences (NASDAQ:KIN): Roth Capital reduces its rating to Neutral from Buy.
Matador Resources (NYSE:MTDR): MTDR is moved to Hold from Accumulate at KLR Group.
Numerex (NASDAQ:NMRX): Shares are now Hold from Buy at Canaccord Genuity, which also trims its target price by $3 to $15.
Pinnacle Financial (NASDAQ:PNFP): Shares get downgraded to Hold from Buy with Wunderlich due to a steep valuation.
Safeway (NYSE:SWY): Shares -- upgraded elsewhere today -- get downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T Capital Markets. The company is currently in the process of being bought.
Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS): Shares, which slumped 15.30% yesterday in their single worst showing since 2011, are now Hold from Buy at Argus.
Star Bulk Carriers (NASDAQ:SBLK): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal-Weight from Overweight.
Violin Memory (NYSE:VMEM): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the stock by an unusual 180 degrees, all the way to Underperform from Buy.

Also see:

New Stock Coverage: Conatus Pharmaceuticals Isn't Only for Smart Scientists

Stock Upgrades: Use Your Brain -- Buy Skullcandy
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