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Stock Downgrades: What's the Mata With Manchester United?


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

Lordy Lloyd, bite your tongue. As soon as Goldman's (NYSE:GS) guru says this could be "China's century," awful economic data out of Beijing sends US stock markets slumping. He thus followed a time-honored and predictable pattern. In the '80s, of course, Japan was about to eat America's lunch; the country just announced a record 18th straight monthly trade deficit. And a century ago, Argentina was all set to take over the world, according to several market sages. So much for that. Mind you, trying to predict the distant future is appealing when the immediate past is so poor. The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each endured their worst week in years amid a global wall of worry. In technology, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), of all people, took Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to task over the latter's email outage. Those in glass houses really shouldn't throw stones. Or snowblowers, in Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) case. And Mohamed El-Erian decided to quit Pimco so as to write a book. Hey, if an elevator can do it...

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, December 2013 new home sales are expected to contract from the previous month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE:RCL), Seagate (NASDAQ:STX), and US Steel (NYSE:X) are all due to release results.

ACCO Brands (NYSE:ACCO): SunTrust takes the office supply powerhouse to Neutral from Buy.

ANN INC. (NYSE:ANN): The retailer formerly known as AnnTaylor gets reduced to Neutral from Buy at Janney, whose concerns include weak consumer demand allied to negative foot traffic.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:BCRX): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO): Cisco Systems, an important Dow stock, is now Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan. Valuation issues are among the headwinds cited.

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP): The oil giant gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Guggenheim.

CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX): Atlantic Equities cuts the company to Neutral from Overweight.

easyJet (OTCMKTS:ESYJY): The budget British air carrier is tumbling in London today after getting taken to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities.

First Niagara Financial (NASDAQ:FNFG): Shares get downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies. Its price objective, previously $12, is now $9.

Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU): The stock, which fell 15.17% on Friday, is reduced to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James.

Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU): Lululemon Athletica stock is now Neutral from Buy at Janney, which worries about the potential for negative comparative-store sales comparisons in upcoming quarters.

Manchester United (NYSE:MANU): Manchester United just signed Spanish playmaker Juan Mata for a club-record $61.2 million, but it is precisely such spiraling player costs that cause Deutsche Bank to downgrade this storied British soccer side to Hold from Buy. The 20-time English champions are currently languishing in seventh place in their league. Its stock price target is also taken lower, to $16 from $21.

Merck (OTCMKTS:MKGAY): Société Générale slashes to the stock to Sell from Hold. (Note that this Merck, a German company, should not be confused with America's Merck (NYSE:MRK), a Dow member that actually scores a separate broker boost today.)

MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI): The Buenos Aires-based online auctioneer is often called "Latin America's eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY)" but you definitely don't want to have anything to do with Argentina at the moment. Accordingly, its stock is lowered to Underperform from Neutral by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Mosaic (NYSE:MOS): Fertilizer firm Mosaic get moved to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

Nintendo (OTCMKTS:NTDOY): Nintendo stock is slashed to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs. (You can read more on the Japanese company here.)

Pearson (NYSE:PSO): The Financial Times publisher, which just endured an awful week, is now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL): TOL is taken to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

VF Corp. (NYSE:VFC): The North Face owner is now Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen.

Xerox (NYSE:XRX): BMO Capital cuts the photocopy king to Perform from Outperform.

See also:

Stock Upgrades: Milk Honeywell for All It's Worth

New Stock Coverage: AMC Entertainment Starts With Hollywood Ending
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