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Stock Downgrades: Analysts Can't Make Up Their Minds on Microsoft Corporation

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

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It was a profitable day for both piano keys and Alicia Keys, with Steinway Musical Instruments (LVB) surging 9.27% to a fresh peak while the singer's beloved BlackBerry (BBRY) jumped 10.45%. (As the BB10 endorser appears equally partial to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone, she can also take heart from that company's 2.84% advance.) There is apparently no truth to the plausible rumor that expert piano movers Laurel and Hardy are running JC Penney (JCP), a 33% plunger this year.

The boardroom game of musical chairmen continues this morning, however, with incumbent Thomas Engibous saying with a straight face, "I would like to thank Bill Ackman for his service …over the past two years." (No snickering in the back, please.) And the spendthrift era of American excess may be over, with late payments on our credit cards officially at generational lows. This as a country whose emergence as a post-war superpower was built on its famous culture of saving and thrift tried to get its head around a national debt that now stretches to 1,000,000,000,000,000 yen.

This morning in economics, June business inventories are expected to show improvement from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the quarterly earnings front, expect Brocade Communications (BRCD), Cree Inc. (CREE), Flower Foods (FLO), Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT), JDS Uniphase (JDSU), and SeaWorld (SEAS) to release results.

Allot Communications (ALLT): RBC Capital Markets reduces its rating to Sector Perform from Outperform.

AthenaHealth (ATHN): Shares are slashed to Underperform from Market Perform at Cowen.

Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB): The regional financial firm is now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Macy's (M): No miracle on 34th Street for the retailer, moved to Hold from Buy at Maxim Group this morning.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): Bill Gates' baby, upgraded last week and downgraded last month, is a tough one to get a handle on these days. This morning the sentiment has swung back to being negative on the Dow (^DJI) member, with Stifel slashing it to Hold from Buy. Concerns include heightened pricing pressures and increased sales & marketing expenses for the Windows franchise.

Nordic American Tanker (NAT): NAT is now Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen due to valuation and an overall absence of catalysts. Shares are falling more than 5% this morning as a result.

Nordstrom (JWN): Maxim Group gives the upscale retailer a Hold-from-Buy downgrade.

Old Mutual (ODMTY): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Nomura.

Smith & Nephew (SNN): Citigroup cuts the British medical company to Neutral from Buy.

Ultra Petroleum (UPL): Shares get cut to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies.

Yum Brands (YUM): The Taco Bell owner, slumping today, gets taken to Neutral from Buy at Buckingham.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Time to Buy RetailMeNot Inc? and Stock Upgrades: Xerox Corporation Looks to Replicate Its Heyday.)

Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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