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Stock Downgrades: Microsoft Isn't Built Ford Tough

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

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That chap who was photographed reading Barron's, the Bible of capitalism, without his pants while riding the subway on Sunday was smart, for it likely allowed him to avoid losing his shirt yesterday. A claim that not many other investors could make on a day the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) each endured their worst session in months. Indeed, it was enough to drive shareholders to drink. Bill Ackman, although his teetotal tastes tend more toward coffee and mineral water, could use one after losing a billion bucks on JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) and Herbalife (NYSE:HLF). Yesterday, however, he had the last laugh, making $342.5 million on his 13% stake in Beam Inc (NYSE:BEAM). The company, which owns Teachers and Laphroaig Scotch, made money talk with a 25.56% advance in its stock. (When it comes to whisky - and don't dare include that Irish "e" when spelling it in Edinburgh - you've got the talkers. And you've got the Dewar's.) Elsewhere, Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) lost 16.61% in sliding to a fresh two-year low. Its stock has been a horrific performer ever since founder Chip Wilson, one of North America's richest men, told Bloomberg's Trish Regan late last year a propos of his company's yoga pants that, "quite frankly some women's bodies just actually don't work for it," adding, "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs." Really, dude? You said that to Miss New Hampshire 1993, a woman who looks like this after giving birth to twins? Some people have more dollars than sense. Moving from sheer pants to, well, wardrobe malfunctions, TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ:TIVO) tumbled 4.82% on a rating reduction.

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, consensus calls for November business inventories to contract from the prior month's pace when they are announced at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) got quarterly earnings season underway for the big banks with their releases of results.

BT Group (NYSE:BT): The British telecom titan is taken to Underperform from Neutral by BNP Paribas.

ChannelAdvisor (NYSE:ECOM): Goldman Sachs slashes the stock to Neutral from Buy.

Demandware (NYSE:DWRE): Shares are now Neutral from Buy, also at Goldman.

Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO): Barclays cuts the discount retailer to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX): The stock is moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital. Issues include the potential of an Indonesian export ban, allied to an overall lack of catalysts.

General Mills (NYSE:GIS): Morgan Stanley says "Cheerio" to the cereal stock, moving it to Underweight from Equal Weight.

Hi-Crush Partners (NYSE:HCLP): The limited partnership gets lowered to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT): More bad news for Microsoft stock, suffering since Alan Mulally opted to stay at Ford Motor (NYSE:F). Today it is taken to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup amid limited upside and CEO uncertainty.

Nokia (NYSE:NOK): NOK is now Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM): Raymond James reduces its rating on Qualcomm stock to Market Perform from Outperform.

Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI): The home of shock jock Howard Stern, whose stock has been on a real run recently, today gets taken to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays.

Teekay Offshore (NYSE:TOO): The limited partnership is lowered to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital Markets. Its price objective, previously $36, goes down by one dollar.

Volkswagen (OTCMKTS:VLKAY): The German car giant is tumbling about 2% in today's European trading after getting slashed to Sell from Neutral at UBS. Slowing earnings growth are among the bank's key concerns.

Western Union (NYSE:WU): Citi cuts the company to Sell from Neutral.

ZELTIQ Aesthetics (NASDAQ:ZLTQ): Goldman Sachs gives the medical appliance outfit, which fell 5.56% on Monday, a Neutral-from-Buy downgrade.

See also:

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Stock Upgrades: Marissa Mayer Puts Yahoo Back in Vogue
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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