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Stock Downgrades: Even Archie Bunker Can't Save Astoria Financial


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

We did indeed get green screens for Saint Patrick's Day, although the Irish, who always did have a keen sense of irony, will have had a wry chuckle at Guinness owner Diageo (NYSE:DEO) dropping 1.39% even as the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) ended up by triple (tipple?) digits. And what on Earth would they make of the glitzy global headquarters of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GSsitting so incongruously next to a memorial dedicated to Dublin's potato famine? Among stocks on the move, Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) gained 1.89% after spinning off its Lands' End business, which may pay for punctuation lessons one day. Land's end? Bill Ackman, who has vowed to go to "the end of the Earth" against Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), saw that stock slide another 7.82%. The silver-haired billionaire happily admitted that retail is not his "strong suit" after losing several hundred million on JC Penney (NYSE:JCP). International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), home of Eisenhower America's quintessential Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, may be a better fit after it jumped 1.98%. That was certainly far better than Gray Television (NYSE:GTN), which tumbled 10.56% on a rating reduction. And on an otherwise excellent session in equities, Beano gas prevention owner Prestige Brands (NYSE:PBH) plunged 4.05%. Maybe this is President Putin's coded message that Russia has many remaining weapons in its arsenal.
This morning the Federal Open Market Committee starts a two-day policy meeting, its first under Janet Yellen's leadership. In earnings action, Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE), Hertz (NYSE:HTZ), and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) all release results.
Astoria Financial (NYSE:AF): The company, whose name conjures up the Queens neighborhood where Archie Bunker held court in All in the Family, gets cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.
Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO): Concerned about soft demand, Barclays cuts the key Dow component to Equal Weight from Overweight. Its price objective, previously $25, is trimmed to $23.
E-House China (NYSE:EJ): Goldman Sachs pulls the stock from its Conviction Buy list of favored equities.
Fortuna Silver Mines (NYSE:FSM): The commodity company gets slashed to Sector Perform from Outperform at CIBC World Markets.
Imperial Oil (NYSEMKT:IMO): Macquarie moves the energy outfit to Underperform from Neutral.
Shutterfly (NASDAQ:SFLY): Shares are falling 4.82% even as I pen this piece after an unusual 180-degree (Underperform from Outperform) downgrade at Cowen, which takes its target price to $39 from $57. Spotty mobile trends and intensifying competition are among the broker's concerns.
Sina Corp (NASDAQ:SINA): Maxim Group gives the stock a Hold-from-Buy cut.
Umpqua Holdings (NASDAQ:UMPQ): RBC Capital reduces its rating to Perform from Outperform and takes its target to $20 from $22 amid a lack of imminent upside potential in the stock.

Also see:

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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