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Stock Downgrades: Whole Foods Has Absolutely No One Arguing on Its Behalf

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

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Okay, our headline may not be entirely accurate. After all, Argus did raise its rating on Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM) this morning. The broker is entirely out on a limb, however, with a whole host of other equity analysts rushing to reduce ratings today. Shares in the gourmet grocer are slumping some 17.62% as we speak, this after the company announced disappointing second quarter earnings. Whole Foods is, among other excuses, blaming a late Easter for the results, but more systemic issues look a more likely cause. Not least increased competition in the natural and organic aisle from other companies, including Trader Joe's.
 
When your instinct tells you that disaster
Is approaching you faster and faster,
Then be like the bluebird and sing,
'Tweet tweet, tra-la, tra-la, tra-la.'

-- "Anything Goes"
 
In an utterly eerie coincidence, Cole Porter's Depression-era musical was revived on October 19, 1987, the very day that Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) suffered their worst ever single session slump. What we witnessed on Wall Street yesterday wasn't quite that bad, but a 17.81% tumble in Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) bluebird did prove a prelude to the S&P 500′s (INDEXSP:.INX) most punk performance for more than three weeks. Monica Lewinsky got an unpaid gig at the White House in 1995, the same year Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) registered its domain name. The internal intern, now 40, resurfaced to say, "It's time to bury the blue dress." Marissa Mayer, reflecting on her preening Vogue pose while clad in the same color, would surely second that sentiment. Ms. Mayer can certainly afford to expand her wardrobe after pocketing that 22.6% stake in Alibaba. Yahoo is all about Saturday Night Live but JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) must now regret the awful news it announced on Friday night. It fell another 1.62% after issuing iffy markets revenue guidance on the eve of the weekend. Perhaps the financial firm famous for employing a "London Whale" was just paying posthumous tribute to the world's most famous Cockney in the week he passed away. Burying bad tidings at exactly that time is, of course, the oldest trick in the PR playbook. Trouble is, Monday morning almost always rolls around again.
 
Today in economics, March consumer credit is expected to contract from February's pace at 3:00 p.m. EDT. On the corporate front, earnings season is in its final innings but an A-Z of quarterly announcements includes Allergan (NYSE:AGN), Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR), Sotheby's (NYSE:BID), and Zillow (NASDAQ:Z).
 
Now let's look at this morning's rating reductions, an eclectic bunch that features an online auctioneer plus headline stock Whole Foods Market.

Aegerion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AEGR): Shares, slumping some 16.21% as we speak, are moved to Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen. The target price is also cut considerably, to $36 from $85.
 
eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at SunTrust.
 
Fiat (OTCMKTS:FIATY): Mediobanca moves the Italian car company and owner of Chrysler to Neutral from Outperform.
 
GNC Holdings (NYSE:GNC): GNC gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank. Its price objective, previously $55, falls to $40.
 
Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN): Northland Capital reduces its rating to Perform from Outperform amid concerns over gross margins. The target is slashed to $7 from $12.
 
Marriott (NASDAQ:MAR): Shares are lowered to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.
 
Merck (NYSE:MRK): Morgan Stanley moves yesterday's poorest-performing blue chip to Equal-Weight from Overweight.
 
Tate & Lyle (OTCMKTS:TATYY): The British sugar giant gets downgraded to Underperform from Perform by BNP Paribas.
 
The Fresh Market (NASDAQ:TFM): Sterne Agee reduces its opinion to Underperform from Neutral.
 
Whole Foods Market: BMO Capital (Perform from Outperform, target taken to $40 from $65), Cantor Fitzgerald (Sell from Hold), Deutsche Bank (Hold from Buy), Piper Jaffray (Neutral from Overweight), and Sterne Agee (Neutral from Buy) all reduce ratings on today's troubled headline stock.
 
Zoetis (NYSE:ZTS): The animal health outfit is trimmed to Underweight from Equal-Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Also see:

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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