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Stock Downgrades: Rotten Apple on Menu at Cook's Next Dinner With Carl

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

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Amid much schadenfreude on the Internet, for a split second on Sunday Taylor Swift thought she won a Grammy for Red. Maybe she should have. For as her father, a broker at Bank of America's (NYSE:BAC) "Mother Merrill" unit knows all too well, Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) just ended in the red for a fifth straight session. Moreover, the ongoing malaise in US stock markets was due in no small measure to more economic angst in Istanbul, whose Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk once wrote a book called My Name Is Red. Some stocks did buck a remorseless tide of crimson that took the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) to a six-week trough. Merck (NYSE:MRK) rose 1.06% to a fresh 52-week peak as analyst David Risinger at Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) raised his rating on the pharmaceutical firm. (When he worked at the aforementioned Merrill Lynch, Mr. Risinger once memorably issued three separate recommendations on Merck in a single day, but yesterday one was enough.) Over at the other half of the House of Morgan, Jamie Dimon's JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) downgraded Pearson (NYSE:PSO), whose ink-stained wretches publish the Financial Times. The salmon-colored publication promptly tumbled another 2.85%, this fresh from suffering its worst week since the "flash crash" month of May 2010. To think that Mr. Dimon - fresh from scoring a 74% salary increase, even in a year blighted by billions in legal bills for his firm - believes it is journalists who are preposterously overpaid. And beleaguered Buenos Aires turned to an 87-year-old Adidas (OTCMKTS:ADDYY)-clad avowed communist for assistance. Cry for Argentina, whatever Evita may say.

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, the Conference Board's January consumer confidence index is expected to improve from its December 2013 rate when released at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), DuPont (NYSE:DD), Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), Ford (NYSE:F), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Siemens (NYSE:SI), VMware (NASDAQ:VMW), and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) are all due to release results as quarterly reporting season kicks into high gear.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): Apple CEO Tim Cook may get a real grilling at his next dinner with Carl Icahn. Shares, slumping some 6.67% as we speak, are reduced by both Oppenheimer (Perform from Outperform) and Raymond James (Outperform from Strong Buy, with its target price taken to $550 from $700.) Disappointing guidance and growth forecasts are cited for the stock's rating reductions, not the first of this still-young year.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:BCRX): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the stock to Underperform from Neutral after yesterday's 15.43% slide.

Chefs' Warehouse (NASDAQ:CHEF): Chefs' Warehouse stock is cut to Hold from Buy at BB&T Capital Markets.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ): Deutsche Bank pulls Hewlett-Packard stock from its Short-Term Buy list.

JPMorgan Chase: The Dow member is now Neutral from Outperform at Mediobanca.

L'Oreal (OTCMKTS:LRLCY): Commerzbank cuts the French cosmetics firm to Reduce from Hold.

Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN): Shares receive an unusual 180 degree (Underperform from Buy) rating reduction at Bank of America-Merrill.

Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX): Credit Suisse cuts Phillips 66 stock to Neutral from Outperform.

ResMed (NYSE:RMD): The stock gets downgraded to Hold from Outperform at CIMB.

Royal Caribbean (RCL): Danske inflicts an après-earnings rating reduction on the cruise company, taking it to Hold from Buy.

Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA): Oppenheimer cuts the application software outfit to Perform from Outperform.

Tile Shop (NASDAQ:TTS): Citing concerns over the company's internal controls, Robert W. Baird takes TTS to Neutral from Outperform. Its price objective, previously $24, is now $13.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Can Crocs Keep Head Above Water?

Stock Upgrades: 'LUV' Is in the Air for Southwest Airlines
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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