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Stock Downgrades: A Little Bird Tells Me the Canary Just Ate Caterpillar

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

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"Space: The final frontier." So said Star Trek, as the Starship Enterprise started "Its five year mission to explore strange new worlds." Almost half a decade in to this bull market, US markets continue going to Pluto, yesterday lead by an S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX)-best 5.47% jump in Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR). "Dow, S&P 500 end higher on Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Europe" read Reuters headline, which would have made for a mighty improbable lede mere months ago. But we have indeed gone Back to the Future, with a helping hand from Guess (NYSE:GES). The clothing company that outfitted the 1985 film answered all questions by gaining 2.58%. If Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) will forgive the phrase, that movie was memorable for firing up the Delorean, but Mr. Musk makes an unworthy heir after his stock tumbled 14.51% in enduring its worst day for two years. The South African CEO said Panasonic (OTCMKTS:PCRFY) deserves a measure of the blame, amid a tight supply of its batteries. Since that Japanese giant is best know for its 1980s catchphrase "Just slightly ahead of our time," they should surely have seen it coming. And 153 years to the day after Abraham Lincoln's election, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) priced its Initial Public Offering. Our 16th president indelibly altered history in 268 iconic words; the micro-blogging service needs only 140 characters. Still, from "Four score and seven years ago" to "Does it take 18 months for twins to be born? Or 9?" is a funny kind of progress. Thus does our culture continue to be dumbed down, even on a day an upgraded Interactive Intelligence (NASDAQ:ININ) increased 17.99%. Just ask Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), whose shares slumped an S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX)-worst 13.52. They're just a bunch of Hicks.

In terms of today's economic events that may move US markets, September consumer credit is expected to show a contraction at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, Annie's (NYSE:BNNY), Apache (NYSE:APA), Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA), Beazer Homes (NYSE:BZH), Crédit Agricole (OTCMKTS:CRARY), FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE), Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), Rocket Fuel (NASDAQ:FUEL), Siemens (NYSE:SI), Walt Disney (NASDAQ:DIS), and Wendy's (NASDAQ:WEN) are all due to announce earnings.

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF): The "cool kids" can't help you now, buddy. The teen clothing company's endlessly controversial CEO had to endure an S&P 500-worst 13.52% slide yesterday. This morning, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch does a 180 on this slumping retailer, slashing it all the way to Sell (or "Underperform," in the euphemistic parlance of equity analysts) from Buy.

Apartment Investment & Management (NYSE:AIV): RBC Capital cuts the company to Sector Perform from Outperform.

Carmike Cinemas (NASDAQ:CKEC): Carmike Cinemas, having surged some 6.33% yesterday, is reduced to Perform from Market Perform Raymond James due to understandable valuation issues. Carmike Cinemas runs digital and 3-D theaters.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT): Caterpillar, a key Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) component, is now Neutral from Buy at ISI Group. Over the past year, construction equipment company Caterpillar has seen its stock fall 4.38% amid concerns over a slowing Chinese economy, among other issues.

51job Inc. (NASDAQ:JOBS): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Underweight from Equal-Weight.

Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN): Bank of America-Merrill lowers portable navigation powerhouse Garmin to Neutral from Buy. Garmin shares have returned a tidy 26.52% in the last year.

IAMGOLD (NYSE:IAG): IAG gets downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight by Barclays, whose price objective - previously $7 - is slashed to $5.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM): The tech name is now Market Perform from Outperform at Northland Capital, whose target price is lowered to $72. Concerns include margin pressure and issues related to fourth quarter average selling prices. .

SkyWest (NASDAQ:SKWY): Raymond James reduces the regional airline to Market Perform from Outperform. Yesterday shares rose 2.47% to a fresh 52-week peak.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Time to Put Your Nest Egg in Twitter? and Stock Upgrades: Who Needs Twitter When There's American Eagle?)
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