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Stock Downgrades: Cliffs Natural Resources Not Worth Hill of Beans


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

So the bull market met its end in an arctic winter, and at the hands of the man who hugged a polar bear. Some are calling Crimea a "black swan event" but it was actually all too predictable. The planet's richest person -- and that would be President Putin, no matter what Forbes said yesterday -- saw his net worth slide along with a 10.8% tumble in Russia's main market, but his geopolitical aspirations apparently mean much more than mere money. On a day all ten S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) industries ended in the red, Red Lobster owner Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) fell 5.35% to post its poorest performance. (Red Lobster? The Kremlin appears to be taking us back to the B-52"²s 1979 chart-topper "Rock Lobster," as that was the year it invaded Afghanistan.) Some stocks did buck a brutal tape. Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (NASDAQ:JOSB), which rose a respective 19.24% and 12.77% last week, each increased again as they continued history's most convoluted corporate courtship. Bill Gross, who has such -- such -- trouble with ties, should ask either clothing company for an easier clip-on version. (Pimco's parent, German insurance giant Allianz (OTCMKTS:AZSEY) may eventually want to cut its ties with the "bond king" after getting downgraded today.) I believe it was Russell Baker who best captured the utter uselessness of that item of clothing by calling it "a $60 piece of silk designed to prevent the shirt buttons from being splattered with spaghetti sauce." The accessory is not worth it, especially on a day Noodles & Co (NASDAQ:NDLS) nose-dived 6.10% and Unilever (NYSE:UN) -- seeking to sell Ragu -- tumbled 2.53%.
There aren't any economic reports of note released today, but earnings announcements are expected out of AutoZone (NYSE:AZO), Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS), and Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC).
Allianz: As mentioned earlier, Europe's biggest insurance outfit gets taken to Hold from Buy by its fellow Teutonic financial behemoth Deutsche Bank.
AngloGold (NYSE:AU): UBS slashes the commodity outfit to Sell from Neutral.
Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF): (Fedora hat tip to Casablanca for today's title.) More bad news for the iron ore outfit, whose shares have tumbled 22.57% even in the bull market of the past 12 months. Today it gets moved to Underperform from Market Perform with Wells Fargo on account of a "too challenging" environment.
Dendreon (NASDAQ:DNDN): DNDN gets downgraded to Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.
Fresenius Medical (NYSE:FMS): Shares are now Underweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities.
Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG): Cantor Fitzgerald cuts the company to Hold from Buy.
Lennar (NYSE:LEN): Citing a steep valuation, KeyBanc Capital lowers the home-builder to Hold from Buy.
Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG): MSG is moved to Hold from Buy at Needham, which notes that new CEO Tad Smith has no prior experience heading up a public company.
Publicis (OTCMKTS:PUBGY): Liberum lowers the giant French advertising firm to Hold from Buy.
Starwood Hotels (NYSE:HOT): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs, which also pulls the accommodation firm from its America's Buy list.
Solazyme (NASDAQ:SZYM): The stock gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy, again at Goldman.
Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC): TWC, in the process of being bought by Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA), is moved to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.
WebMD Health (NASDAQ:WBMD): Worried about a recent advertising tracker utilization contraction, Stifel slashes WBMD stock to Hold from Buy. Shares are trading lower today as a result.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Kiss Estee Lauder as if It Were the Last Time (MVPRO article)

Stock Upgrades: Hilton Will Always Have Paris (MVPRO article)
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