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Stock Downgrades: As Obama Pumps Iron, Life Time Fitness Losses Luster


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

On Wednesday President Obama worked out while in Warsaw, but Life Time Fitness (NYSE:LTM) looks unlikely to enjoy any halo effect. This morning the gym giant gets downgraded to Neutral from Overweight after its investor day failed to allay concerns that included increased competition and soft membership trends. The company's Iranian CEO Bahram Akradi has quite the temper, so let's hope he doesn't send the barbells flying upon learning of the rating reduction.
It was entirely appropriate that Oreo owner Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZgot the party started yesterday, for the fuzzy math that characterizes the cookie king now unequivocally extends to equity market action. The steepest productivity plunge in over half a decade? No worries. The trade deficit ballooning to a two-year high? It's all good. Even amid yet more dire economic data, the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) still hit its 16th historic high of 2014 and Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) also continued their inexorable ascent. The Queen got an expensive new carriage in austerity England but Coach (NYSE:COH) certainly wasn't fit for a king, tumbling 2.58% on a rating reduction. Telecom titans Sprint (NYSE:S) and T Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) look like they're teaming up for $32 billion, and 1989 called asking for its plot line back. This, as Poland and -- rather more sheepishly -- China each marked 25-year anniversaries. Meanwhile Japan dialed back its 30 Rock-grabbing glory days of a quarter-century ago as Tokyo's own Dai-ichi Life (OTCMKTS:DCNSF) sent Protective Life (NYSE:PL) surging 18.12% after buying the American insurance outfit for $5.7 billion.
Today's quarterly earnings announcements include Ciena Corp (NYSE:CIEN), Diamond Foods (NASDAQ:DMND), J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM), Joy Global (NYSE:JOY), Vail Resorts (NYSE:VAIL), and Verifone Systems (NYSE:PAY).
Now let's look at this morning's rating reductions, an eclectic bunch that features an Australian commodity company and British sugar stock plus headline equity Life Time Fitness.

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP): The mining behemoth from Down Under is downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital Markets, which says better value can be found elsewhere in the industry.
Life Time Fitness: Piper Jaffray lowers the stock to Neutral from a rather ironic Overweight.
Protective Life: Shares, no longer trading on fundamentals after being bought, get downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.
Tate & Lyle (OTCMKTS:TATYY): Jefferies cuts the English food firm, arguably best known for its sweeteners, to Hold from Buy.
Volvo (OTCMKTS:VOLVY): The Swedish car company gets slashed to Sell from Neutral at UBS.
Zillow (NASDAQ:Z): A second downgrade in three days for this online real estate outfit, now Neutral from Buy at SunTrust.

Also see:

New Stock Coverage: Whole Foods Offers Investors a Free Lunch

Stock Upgrades: Nothing but Net Profit Makes Microsoft a Sterling Success
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