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Stock Downgrades: Searching for Balance, Intel Has a Chip on Each Shoulder

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

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Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) ex-CEO once wrote a book called Only the Paranoid Survive, and today an equity analyst really does have it in for the chip company. Still, shares are actually trading up somewhat ahead of the open after its earnings beat Street estimates. Tablets are an area of promise, but concerns include an ongoing plunge in personal computer shipments, which have now dropped for eight straight quarters.

Yesterday Intel played its part in Nasdaq's (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) turnaround Tuesday. The tech-heavy index was down precipitously at one point but ended up impressively after enjoying its strongest single-session rebound for five years. That was indeed an eternity ago. In 2009 US Airways was a miracle; now it is a laughing stock after tweeting a nude photo. Clearly, such naked short covering was a key reason behind Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), up 11.38%, enjoying its best day since last autumn's IPO. Martha Stewart (NYSE:MSO), unlike Sully Sullenberger's erstwhile employer, is evidently a paragon of virtue at 35,000 feet. Unfortunately, politeness didn't pay for her stock, which plunged 3.41%. Also dropping amid the green ink was Noah Holdings (NYSE:NOAH), which nosedived 4.53%. As the movie theater that had to hurriedly abandon a screening of Noah due to flooding can attest, when it rains, it pours. Especially in April.
 
Today in economics, the Fed releases its Beige Book detailing regional financial conditions in a dozen districts at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, expect earnings announcements out of American Express (NYSE:AXP), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Burberry (OTCMKTS:BURBY), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM).
 
Now let's turn to this morning's rating reductions, with Intel not the only Dow member to get cut.
 
Fidelity & Guaranty Life (NYSE:FGL): Macquarie moves the stock to Neutral from Outperform.
 
Intel: B. Riley & Co. cuts the key Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) component to Neutral from Buy. Cowen treats the semiconductor stock more kindly, however, taking its target up to $24 from $23.50.
 
Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI): The tech name is now Neutral from Buy at Nomura.
 
NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP): UBS reduces its rating to Neutral from Buy.
 
UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH): The Dow member gets moved to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Also see:

New Stock Coverage: Use (Don't Lose) Your Head in Regeneron

Stock Upgrades: Twitter Has No Reason to Be Blue
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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