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Stock Downgrades: Sorry, Maggie -- Today Marx & Engels Triumph Over Marks & Spencer


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

With even Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) now cashing in on Occupy Wall Street, oh to be a fly on the wall. Especially at either the Fed meeting, or a top-secret tech confab with President Obama. (Then again, given how he treats flies, maybe not.) Yesterday US markets went nowhere fast, with the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) essentially marking time ahead of this afternoon's eagerly awaited pronouncements by Ben Bernanke. Leonardo DiCaprio did at least enliven a desultory day by saying those sex scenes were all his own in The Wolf of Wall Street. It tells the tale of Jordan Belfort indicted for securities fraud and money laundering in 1998. That was, of course, when Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) unleashed Viagra upon the world. (And also, in what surely can't be pure coincidence, the year Bill's libido got him into so much trouble in l'affaire Lewinsky.) Yesterday the pharmaceutical firm gave the green light to a generic version of the popular pill; no wonder it was voted the happiest company in America only last week. Alas, the Love & Other Drugs heyday of the naughty '90s are now but a distant dream for industry sales reps. Especially after an unloved GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) lost 1.62% on news it will pull the plug on its prior policy of paying doctors to promote its products. Elsewhere, fleshpots - Rick's Cabaret (NASDAQ:RICK) rose 13.49% - and Potbelly (NASDAQ:PBPB) - up 4.11% - both bucked a down day. And king of Queens Jamie Dimon - channeling that other son of New York's easternmost borough, John McEnroe - sent a tennis-themed holiday card that said "All you need is love." Dude, "you cannot be serious." In tennis, everyone knows love means nothing.

In terms of economic events that may move US markets today, the Federal Open Market Committee releases its interest rate announcement at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Chairman Ben Bernanke's final press conference as Fed head follows at 2:30 p.m. Regarding specific stocks, expect earnings announcements from FedEx (NYSE:FDX), General Mills (NYSE:GIS), Herman Miller (NASDAQ:MLHR), Lennar (NYSE:LEN), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX), and Steelcase (NYSE:SCS).

Avon Products (NYSE:AVP): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers stock in cosmetics company Avon Products to Neutral from Buy.

CGGVeritas (NYSE:CGG): Shares, slumping some 16.21% as I pen this piece, are slashed to Hold from Buy at Société Générale.

El Paso Electric (NYSE:EE): El Paso Electric gets cut to Hold from Buy at Jefferies. Its price objective on El Paso Electric, previously $40, falls by $3.

Jabil Circuit (NYSE:JBL): The stock, tumbling 20% today, is taken to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

Kinross Gold (NYSE:KGC): JPMorgan moves the commodity company to Neutral from Overweight.

LATAM Airlines (NYSE:LFL): LFL gets lowered to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

LSI Corp (NASDAQ:LSI): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal Weight from Overweight. Its target price is $11.15.

Marks & Spencer (OTCMKTS:MAKSY): Free-market icon Margaret Thatcher once said, as she banished the beast of socialism from Great Britain, "Marks and Spencer have triumphed over Marx and Engels." Alas, not today, with shares of the English retail giant trading 3.56% lower in London this morning on a Neutral-from-Buy rating reduction at UBS.

Nanometrics (NASDAQ:NANO): NANO is now Hold from Buy at Stifel due to valuation concerns and a lack of overall catalysts.

Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS): HSBC Securities reduces recently slumping RBS to Underweight from Neutral.

Tower Group (NASDAQ:TWGP): TWGP is taken to Neutral from Buy with a $5 objective at Compass Point, which is concerned over the company's third-quarter reserve charge of between $75 million and $105 million.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Fall in Love With Eros International and Stock Upgrades: Pan American Silver Worth Its Weight in Gold)
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