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Stock Downgrades: Analyst Has Big Beef With McDonald's Corporation

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

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Trying for nine straight gains, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) decided - in the title of a TV show that initially aired 36 years ago - Eight Is Enough. Indeed it was That '70s Show in stocks, with inflation experiencing an unexpected uptick, and Coca-Cola (KO) blaming the decade's watchword economic "malaise" for a Dow (^DJI)-worst 1.90% drop. What next? The return of Jimmy Carter's killer rabbits? Judging by a 2.57% tumble in Annies Inc (BNNY), don't bet against it.

Goldman Sachs (GS), which claims to do "God's work," fell 1.69% but Hain Celestial (HAIN) put in a Heavenly performance, advancing 3.27% to an all time best. And somewhere on his freshly appointed perch in Heaven sits ex-Merrill Lynch president Herb Allison, a true Wall Street great. Looking at this morning's 63% profit surge at Bank of America (BAC), his former firm is in fine fettle.

Today Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke begins his semiannual testimony on Capitol Hill at 10:00 Eastern. The Fed will also release its Beige Book, detailing regional economic conditions in a dozen districts, at 2:00 p.m. Hump Day of peak earnings week is here, with announcements expected out of Abbott Labs (ABT), American Express (AXP), Bank of America (BAC), eBay Inc (EBAY), Intel (INTC), International Business Machines (IBM), Mattel (MAT), and Novartis (NVS) among a multitude of others.

AthenaHealth (ATHN): Shares get downgraded to Outperform from Perform at Raymond James.

Hologic (HOLX): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Piper Jaffray.

Interactive Intelligence (ININ): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): The Dow (^DJI) member is downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank, which is troubled by a steep valuation after shares hit the highest level in their history yesterday after announcing earnings.

McDonald's Corporation (MCD): The fast food firm, a key Dow component, is now Neutral from Buy at Janney. The analyst says US same-store-sales projections are excessively optimistic, according to his proprietary survey. Shares are, accordingly, trading more than 1% lower as I write.

Mechel Steel (MTL): HSBC Securities slashes the small cap stock to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities. Its price objective, previously $5.60, is taken to $2.20.

Pan American Silver (PAAS): The commodity company gets cut to Hold from Buy at Canaccord Genuity.

Scripps Networks Interactive (SNI): Amid issues with Food Network ratings, Wunderlich cuts the company to Hold from Buy. Its price objective is $77.

TW Telecom (TWTW): Time Warner Telecom is taken to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Unilever (UN): Credit Suisse cuts the consumer products giant to Underperform from Neutral, sending it tumbling more than 2% in today's London trading.

Wabash National (WNC): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital, which also trims its target by $5 to $10 amid an increasingly challenging industry outlook.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Pier 1 Imports Inc Walks on Water and New Stock Coverage: Going Gaga Over Gogo Inc.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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