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Stock Downgrades: Monty Python Is Back, but Hormel Foods Finds We Still Don't Like Spam a Lot


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

The surviving members of Monty Python, brains behind Spamalot, yesterday took to the stage for the first time since 1980, with Mr. Jagger joyously taking the Mick at his fellow English old fogies. Alas, Spam maker Hormel Foods (NYSE:HRL) isn't enjoying any halo effect. If not The Full Monty, then investors may lose at least their shirts today after the Skippy peanut butter owner received a rating reduction due to valuation concerns. On Monday, Hormel Foods bought Muscle Milk maker CytoSport Holdings for about $450 million.
If Budweiser's quintessentially American Clydesdales will forgive the phrase -- and they really should, seeing as  Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) is actually based in Belgium -- stocks were off to the races as the third quarter commenced. Lead by an S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX)-best 7.41% surge in Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN), headquartered in the Headless Horseman hamlet of Tarrytown, both the benchmark bourse and Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) rose to fresh bests. It was an equine-style photo finish to determine the day's top stock, with Regeneron winning by a nose from Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLXanalyst-inspired 7.38% advance. The streaming service was boosted by a broker who hailed its international expansion opportunities. (Some six weeks ago, this column characterized such global growth prospects as "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium." Sincere apologies to Team USA -- when I wrote that headline on a random Tuesday in May I had no idea it would come back to haunt in light of events against our Flemish friends on the fútbol field this Tuesday.) Some stocks fell amid the green ink. On a day the S&P 500 ended at a record 1973, that number acted as a cruel taunt to Xerox (NYSE:XRX), whose "Nifty Fifty" heyday peaked that year with an invention so good, Steve Jobs just had to steal it. Unable to reproduce such moments, the photocopy king lost 0.48% on a rating reduction. A similar downgrade saw Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) drop a Dow-worst 0.38% but, as the blue chip benchmark's other bank can freshly attest, it's only money. Godspeed and get well soon, Jamie Dimon.
Today in economics, factory orders for May are expected to contract from April's pace at 10:00 a.m. EDT. On the corporate front, Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) and Greenbrier Companies (NYSE:GBX) each released strong quarterly earnings earlier this morning.
Now let's look at this morning's rating reductions, an eclectic bunch featuring pharmaceutical and financial firms plus headline stock Hormel Foods.

Beazer Homes (NYSE:BZH): Sterne Agee slashes the stock to Neutral from Buy.
Bristol-Myers (NYSE:BMY): The drug giant is falling before the bell after getting downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.
Deutsche Lufthansa (OTCMKTS:DLAKY): Barclays lowers the German air carrier to Equal Weight from Overweight.
El Paso Pipeline (NYSE:EPB): Goldman Sachs lowers the limited partnership to Sell from Neutral.
Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG): If it's Wednesday, this must be a downgrade for the motorcycle icon, dropping ahead of the open on a Perform-from-Strong Buy rating reduction at Raymond James.
Hormel Foods: Credit Suisse cuts today's headline stock to Neutral from Outperform.
Millennial Media (NYSE:MM): MM is moved to Equal Weight from Overweight at Evercore.
Salvatore Ferragamo (OTCMKTS:SFRGF): Bank of America Merrill Lynch lowers the Italian leather empire to Neutral from Buy.
Trimble Navigation (NASDAQ:TRMB): TRMB is taken to Neutral from Buy at Janney.
US Bancorp (NYSE:USB): Due to valuation concerns ahead of second quarter earnings, Robert W. Baird reduces its recommendation to Neutral from Outperform.
Also see:

New Stock Coverage: SolarCity Doesn't Need Fireworks to Light It Up

Stock Upgrades: Eli Lilly Boosted by Love and Other Drugs
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