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Stock Downgrades: McDonald's Cries Tears of a Clown

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

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If Monday was all about the maidens - "Mother Merrill" a.k.a. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) celebrated its centenary and Janet Yellen became the first woman to head the Fed, another august institution that just turned 100 - yesterday was when Mr. Market reclaimed center stage. Certainly from American Girl, whose unloved owner Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT) fell 1.24%. (Really, Barbie had no business being dressed like that as America froze.) Another hot - very hot - blonde fared far better, as Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) Marissa Mayer saw her stock surge 2.47% to a fresh multi-year best as she addressed thousands of drooling middle-aged men at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Those mere mortals who, unlike Ms. Mayer, have a face for radio, can take comfort in Pandora (NYSE:P), hitting another historic high after jumping 3.02%.) With the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each enjoying their best day of the year, some stocks stood out. Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ:NBIX) skyrocketed a Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC)-best 89.69% on its positive Phase II trial results to treat tardive dyskinesia, a condition characterized by repetitive movements such as tongue protrusion. (That would be you, Ms. Miley). Alicia Rhett, incomparable actress in Gone With The Wind, just died, but there is no danger of Vestas Wind Systems (OTCMKTS:VWDRY) doing the same. It advanced 5.28% to end up for a tenth straight session. And Vancouver's own Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) rode a broker boost to tick 0.87% higher. Opportunity knocks in the stock, even as its hometown just banned door handles. In this weather, that's just as well.

In terms of events that may move US stock markets today, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern we get minutes to the Fed's December 17-18, 2013 meeting, at which it announced the beginning of the end for its bond-buying binge. At 3:00 p.m., analysts expect November 2013 consumer credit to contract from the prior month's pace. Regarding specific stocks, AZZ Incorporated (NYSE:AZZ), Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY), Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ), Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO), Monsanto (NYSE:MON), Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RT), and Texas Industries (NYSE:TXI) are all due to release results.

Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA): Shares are now Hold from Buy at Needham.

Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH): JPMorgan cuts CAH to Neutral from Overweight.

Clorox (NYSE:CLX): Clorox stock gets downgraded to Underweight from Neutral, also at JPMorgan.

Container Store (NYSE:TCS): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the retail name to Neutral from Buy.

Copa Holdings (NYSE:CPA): Shares are slashed to Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs.

Dean Foods (NYSE:DF): Deutsche Bank downgrades America's largest dairy producer to Hold from Buy.

Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY): The pharmaceutical firm is moved to Underperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital Markets.

Hipcricket (OTCBB:HIPP): After its iffy earnings, the company gets cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Northland Securities.

J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM): In a jam? The peanut butter powerhouse gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD): Ronald McDonald may be on the run today, as making a quick buck in fast food becomes increasingly difficult. This as the Dow member is moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo. (Note that McDonald's stock scored a bullish "Buy" initiation elsewhere this morning.)

Oil Services: RBC Capital reduces Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) to Sector Perform ($60 price objective) and cuts competitor Cameron International (NYSE:CAM) to Outperform.

Select Comfort (NASDAQ:SCSS): The slumping mattress maker, whose stock nose-dived 19% on Monday, is now Neutral from Outperform with Wedbush.

Steven Madden (NASDAQ:SHOO): Shares are slashed to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray.

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR): Twitter stock, wobbling of late, is falling further ahead of the open after getting cut to Sell from Hold at Cantor Fitzgerald, which calls its valuation "excessive" and still sees fair value at $32.

United Technologies (NYSE:UTX): The owner of Otis elevators, a key Dow component, gets cut to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: JPMorgan Will Survive Its Weekend at Bernie's and Stock Upgrades: Kraft Foods, Still the Big Cheese, Living Velveeta Loca)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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