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Stock Downgrades: Aflac's Duck Dynasty Is Over


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

The Jonas Brothers, who just broke up, and the Collyer Brothers, historic hoarders who saw Container Store (NYSE:TCS) surge 101.11% on Friday - had better weeks. But, for the rest of us, Lehman Brothers are but a fast-fading bad dream. US markets hit fresh historic highs, as a month that began with a governmental ghost town and ended on Halloween raised investors' spirits. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) stocks rose 5% in October, even as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) fell 4.2% on the week. The social networking name will one day have more deceased profiles than live ones; its stock now looks like dead money after a robust recent run. In a spooky trading week that ended with the Day of the Dead, there was no dead-cat bounce for Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and its delisting made kitty seriously pissed. Europe's PIIGS are suddenly in better health, yet Spanish sausage maker Viscofan (MCE:VIS) still plunged 9.6%, with that stock enduring its worst week for over half a decade. And don't expect cosmetics company Avon Products (NYSE:AVP) to put lipstick on any tapirs; its shares imploded 17%.

In terms of events that may move markets today, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern August and September factory orders are each released. On the earnings front, several specific stocks could be impacted by quarterly earnings announcements. These include Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC), CF Industries (NYSE:CF), Goodrich Petroleum (NYSE:GDP), Hertz (NYSE:HTZ), HSBC Holdings (NYSE:HBC), Kellogg (NYSE:K), Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO), Office Depot (NYSE:ODP), OfficeMax (NYSE:OMX), Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD), Plains All American Pipeline (NYSE:PAA), and Tenet Healthcare (NYSE:THC).

AFLAC Inc. (NYSE:AFL): The currently-convalescing AFLAC duck - let's hope its doctor isn't a quack - gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup. Insurance outfit AFLAC officially stands for "American Family Life Assurance Company" but today, such $10 words are likely off the table.

Anworth Mortgage (NYSE:ANH): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform by Keefe Bruyette.

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN): UBS reduces the European pharmaceutical firm to Neutral from Buy.

Bridgepoint Education (NYSE:BPI): The stock gets slashed to Sell from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Calpine (NYSE:CPN): Jefferies lowers the electric utility to Hold from Buy. Its price objective, previously $23.50, is trimmed to $21.

Computer Programs & Systems (NASDAQ:CPSI): Shares get reduced to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James.

Danone (OTCMKTS:DANOY): Danone, best known for its yogurt, is now Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs. As a result of the analyst's action, stock in Danone is trading lower overseas as we speak.

Digital Realty Trust (NYSE:DLR): DLR is downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird due to valuation issues. Its target price is also taken lower, to $48 from $69.

Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS): Suit yourself. Goldman Sachs slashes The Gap, king of casual Fridays, to Neutral from Buy. The Gap has been fairly flat over the past year, returning only 4.76%.

Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC): MRO is moved to In-Line from Outperform at Imperial Capital.

NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP): NTAP is now Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

Range Resources (NYSE:RRC): Barclays reduces RRC to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Reliance Steel (NYSE:RS): Goldman cuts the commodity company to Neutral from Buy.

Republic Services (NYSE:RSG): The waste management company gets moved to Neutral from Outperform with Wedbush.

Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TEVA): TEVA was downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Save the Last Dance for SFX Entertainment and Stock Upgrades: Party On, Red Sox Nation. Boston Beer Gets a Boost)
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