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Stock Downgrades: Time to Disown Family Dollar

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

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The owner of the Empire State (NYSE:ESRT) Building is currently taking a photographer to court for taking pictures of a topless woman atop the iconic structure. Thanks to the Empire State Index, there was no danger whatsoever that Mr. Market would yesterday lose his shirt in a similar fashion. Boosted by the Gotham-area manufacturing gauge jumping to a 20-month high, US stock markets scored good gains for a second straight session, with the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) ending at another record. In a session that saw SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS) ring the closing bell, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) finally broke free from its "London Whale." It ended up 3.03% to top the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) and indeed hit a historic best. This despite having just been surpassed as the most profitable bank in the US by Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), whose logo is a horse and carriage. Traffic in central London moved quicker in the horse and buggy era than it does today, but Britain's Burberry (OTCMKTS:BBRYF) is still going places, and it proved a fine place to park your money after rising 3.11%. Elsewhere, a gargantuan but lately beleaguered financial institution impressed investors after its ruthless leader vowed to shake things up. But enough about Pope Francis culling upper management at the Vatican Bank; Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) gained 2.27% to levels not seen since 2010.

In terms of economic events that may move US stock markets today, the January Philadelphia Fed Index is expected to show improvement from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Regarding specific stocks, American Express (NYSE:AXP), BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) all announce earnings.

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU): Shares get downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Evercore.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY): The stock, slumping some 30.21% as we speak, is slashed to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer.

Brasil Foods (NYSE:BRFS): Goldman Sachs slashes the stock to Neutral from Buy.

Diageo (NYSE:DEO) The Guinness owner is indeed crying into its ale today after being taken to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Dominion (NYSE:D): Jefferies downgrades the firm to Hold from Buy.

Family Dollar Stores (NYSE:FDO): Stock in Family Dollar Stores is reduced to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Kroger (NYSE:KR): KR gets cut to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse. Its amended price objective is $39.

McCormick (NYSE:MKC): Jefferies moves spice stock MKC to Hold from Buy.

McGraw-Hill Financial (NYSE:MHFI): McGraw-Hill Financial stock gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

MRC Global (NYSE:MRC): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the equity an unusual 180 degrees, all the way to Underperform from Buy.

Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL): Ralph Lauren, who, despite his blue-blood image, was actually born in the Bronx as Ralph Lifshitz, sees his stock slashed to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

See also:

New Stock Coverage: Philip Morris Is Not Smoking Hot

Stock Upgrades: Hewlett-Packard Boosted by Bank of America, Neither of Which Need the Dow
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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