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Stock Downgrades: Analyst Inflicts Assault and Battery on Energizer

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

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Merrill Lynch, the firm famous for bringing "Wall Street to Main Street," turned 100 years old yesterday in fine fettle, with its suddenly surging owner Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) advancing another 1.52%. Main Street may not get much in the way of bonuses, if a cartoon in the current New Yorker is accurate, but it is still doing better than its lower-Manhattan brethren at the moment. The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each continued their sub-par start to 2014, with the latter having now begun a year with a hat trick of losses for the first time since 2005. Henry Blodget earned a money-spinning move to "Mother Merrill" after making an extraordinarily prescient prediction on Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) in 1998. In those days, stocks weren't downgraded for "moral reasons" - indeed they were rarely downgraded at all. Times change, however, and that was indeed the reason given for the online retailer's "Sell" rating yesterday. (Does being "moral" pay on Wall Street, anyway? Maybe. But maybe not.) Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ:ZNGA) gained 1.76% after announcing it will accept Bitcoins, which 6% of Americans think is an Xbox game. (Fat lot of good that did Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which dropped a Dow-worst 2.11%.) And gold briefly tanked in a "velocity logic event" before bouncing back. 2013 was the worst year for the yellow metal since 1981, when MTV debuted with the song "Video Killed the Radio Star." Really? Pandora (NYSE:P) just rose 14.14% to a historic high and Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI), on fire of late, increased another 7.28%.

Regarding specific stocks that may move US markets today, Apollo Education Group (NASDAQ:APOL), Commercial Metals Company (NYSE:CMC), Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU), and The Container Store (NYSE:TCS) are all due to release results.

Alliance Data Systems (NYSE:ADS): Goldman Sachs slashes the stock to Neutral from Buy.

Baxter International (NYSE:BAX): Shares are downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform with a $73 price objective at RBC Capital, whose concerns include the company's rFVIII franchise.

Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW): Discount broker Charles Schwab sees its stock cut to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the company to Neutral from Buy.

Chubb (NYSE:CB): The insurance outfit is downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

Energizer Holdings (NYSE:ENR): Energizer Holdings stock gets moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo. In addition to its eponymous -- and indefatigable -- battery bunny, Energizer's other brands include Banana Boat, Diaper Genie, Eveready, Hawaiian Tropic, Playtex, Schick, Wet Ones, and Wilkinson Sword.

Gulfport Energy (NASDAQ:GPOR): RBC Capital cuts the company to Perform from Outperform with an amended price objective of $61.

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD): Shares are lowered to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT): Barbie's owner is trading lower today after getting slashed to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs, which cites concerns regarding revenue growth among other issues.

Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS): The fashion firm is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Moneygram (NASDAQ:MGI): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray, whose new target price is $20.

Monsanto (NYSE:MON): Topeka takes the agribusiness behemoth to Hold from Buy.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX): Last year Netflix stock surged some 297.6% to top the entire S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX). This year, however, is off to an inauspicious start for the firm, today taken to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley amid increased digital-video-streaming competition. Its price objective, previously a preciously precise $333, gets taken to $310.

Spirit Aerosystems (NYSE:SPR): Bank of America-Merrill moves the stock to Neutral from Buy.

Textron (NYSE:TXT): TXT is taken to Neutral from Buy, again at Bank of America-Merrill.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Record Cold Got You Down? Botox Owner Allergan Turns Frowns Into Frozen Smiles and Stock Upgrades: Lululemon Athletica Is Out of the Downward Doghouse at Last)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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