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Stock Downgrades: Apple Looks Like a Lemon

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

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Stocks hit fresh five year highs after the House agreed to extend our borrowing limit through May 19. Ah, May 19 - it was on that date in 2001 that a desperately struggling Apple (AAPL), its stock at $11.66, opened its first stores. On May 19 1962, a Mad Men era highlight saw Marilyn coo "Happy Birthday" to JFK at Madison Square Garden (MSG), whose stock stands today atop an all-time high. Don Draper, last seen in '67 to the similarly dulcet sounds of Nancy Sinatra, is to return in April.

A half century ago the white shirts of International Business Machines (IBM) ruled the roost over Corporate America, and after Big Blue effortlessly bested all blue chips, they still do. And twenty four hours after we celebrated National Pie Day, poor Apple has just been sliced. Are there now one too many Cooks at the company? Today in economics, December leading indicators are expected to tick up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

In corporate action the quarterly earnings express rolls on, with AT&T Inc. (T), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), E*Trade Financial (ETFC), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Microsoft(MSFT), Nokia (NOK), Raytheon (RTN), Southwest Airlines (LUV), Starbucks (SBUX), 3M Company (MMM), United Continental (UAL), and Xerox (XRX) all due to release results.

Albemarle (ALB): The company is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): Shares, nose-diving 9.83% ahead of the open, get downgraded by both Jefferies (Hold from Buy) and Scotia Capital (Sector Perform from Outperform) and are removed from Morgan Stanley's Best Ideas List after yesterday's results. Concerns include declining gross margins and slowing earnings growth, and Scotia's target price is slashed to $528 from $600. (Note that this morning Deutsche Bank, ISI Group Mizuho, Société Générale, and UBS - while all kept overall ratings intact - lowered their respective price objectives to $575, $600, $575, $560, and $600. Sterne Agee, at $715, is more optimistic. And as for that eye-catching $1,111 at Topeka? As of today, it's $888.)

Altera (ALTR): William Blair reduces its recommendation to Market Perform from Outperform.

Coach Inc. (COH): The luxury handbag maker, whose stock cratered 16.36% yesterday, is now Neutral from Buy at ISI Group

Copa Holdings (CPA): Goldman Sachs gives CPA a Neutral-from-Buy downgrade.

Energizer (ENR): Shares get taken to Market Perform from Outperform by BMO Capital.

Magnum Hunter (MHR): MHR is moved to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

Netflix (NFLX): The stock, upgraded elsewhere this morning and surging before the bell, is now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

OfficeMax (OMX): OMX is cut to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc Capital.

Parkway Properties (PKY): Cantor Fitzgerald slashes the company to Sell from Hold with a new objective of $15.

Pilgrim's Pride (PPC): The poultry processor is now Neutral at B. Riley Caris due to valuation issues.

Primerica (PRI): Troubled by a less favorable product mix, SunTrust takes the equity to Reduce from Neutral.

Reinsurance Group of America (RGA): Morgan Stanley reduces the stock to Equal-Weight from Overweight.

Safeway (SWY): The grocery giant gets downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Symantec (SYMC): SYMC is reduced to Hold from Buy with Wunderlich, which says turnaround efforts are still at an early stage.

Tiffany (TIF): Canaccord Genuity cuts the company to Hold from Buy with a $58 target amid slowing sales momentum and per share earnings that have now missed consensus expectations for four consecutive quarters.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Blockbuster Day for Netflix and New Stock Coverage: Colgate Is All Smiles but Kimberly-Clark Cries Into Its Kleenex.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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