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Stock Downgrades: It's Goodbye, Columbus, as Express Endures Another Dire Day

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

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Yesterday, at exactly 9:30 a.m. Eastern, when stocks started trading in downtown New York, upper Manhattan was rocked by an explosion. At precisely 4:00 p.m., while the closing bell rang out, attention was instead on the White House where President Obama opined on the Ukraine crisis. It was that sort of day on Wall Street, bookended by events elsewhere as a directionless Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) endured another distracted day absent any economic data. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) did snap a four-session skid, assisted by a 1.11% advance in Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). The smart money is still piling into the stock, now up 30% this year, even as it continues to be a window on extraordinary stupidity. The most recent example being a submachine gun-wielding selfie posted on the social media platform. (In the ultimate irony, last week Zuck finally got tough on firearms and, that very same day, Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC) surged 16.44% after announcing impressive earnings.) The selfie-snapper was thus busted for a trio of bank robberies in Michigan, but Motown continues to suffer. General Motors (NYSE:GM) gapped down another 0.91% after Fred Upton announced an investigation. Meanwhile, you know things are bad at Express (NYSE:EXPR) when not even his niece Kate can save the clothing company; yesterday its stock tumbled 12.01%. Shares look like dead money, in much the same manner of the mummy who re-elected her uncle in the 2010 mid-terms.
 
Today in economics, analysts call for January business inventories to fall from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. In earnings action, Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), Dollar General (NYSE:DG), Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG), SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS), and Zumiez (NASDAQ:ZUMZ) are all due to release results.
 
Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED): With yesterday's tragedy in Harlem still fresh, the New York utility gets downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays. Its price objective, previously $62, is now $58.
 
Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the video game outfit to Neutral from Buy.
 
EPL Oil & Gas (NYSE:EPL): Shares get downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel.
 
Express: (Hat tip to Philip Roth for today's title, although no one seems to be buying caps or indeed anything else at this apparel and accessory outfit based in the Buckeye State capital.) Shares are falling another 1.37% after yesterday's steep slide, this after being moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital.
 
Midstates Petroleum (NYSE:MPO): Shares are reduced to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital, which also trims its target price by $2 to $5 after a $170 million Pine Prairie asset sale.

National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV): National Oilwell is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at ISI Group.
 
PVH Corp (NYSE:PVH): The clothing company formerly known as Phillips-Van Heusen gets cut to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo. Morgan Stanley (Equal Weight from Overweight) adds to its angst.
 
Steelcase (NYSE:SCS): Longbow lowers the furniture firm to Neutral from Buy.
 
Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM): The Pottery Barn owner gets pulled from Citigroup's US Focus list of favored domestic equities. Shares are, however, currently advancing impressively on an earnings beat.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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