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Stock Downgrades: Apple's Fallen and It Can't Get Up

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

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The S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) continued its recent run and has now gained for eight straight sessions, something that last occurred in early November 2004. Spain, home of the matador, tried typically hard to kill the bull, but Wall Street's animal spirits simply couldn't be stopped.

This was largely due to two hedge fund magnates who absolutely repel each other, one of whom is an especially big believer in a word with deep roots in America's rich agricultural and farming tradition. (Clearly it can't be coincidental that fertilizer firm Agrium (AGU) finished Friday at an all-time high, fresh from Mr. Icahn's endorsement of its principal product?) 3M Co. (MMM), whose iconic adhesive tape was so-named to please the company's "cheap Scotch bosses," added on 1.9% to also end at an historic best, its stock on fire just in time for Burns Night in Edinburgh.

The 2013 Davos confab concluded, with Bill Gates' prediction at its 2004 edition that spam would be history within two years looking as pie-in-the-sky as ever. Still, since Microsoft (MSFT) stock rose 2.3% over four holiday-shortened sessions, the billionaire can afford to be smug at Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) expense, what with it having now imploded 17% so far this year.

This morning in economics, consensus calls for December pending home sales to tick up at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

In earnings action, it's the start of another frenetic week for fourth quarter announcements, with today's releases due to include Biogen Idec (BIIB), BMC Software (BMC), Caterpillar (CAT), MicroStrategy (MSTR), Ryanair (PINKY:RYAAY), Seagate Technology (STX), Steel Dynamics (STLD), VMware (VMW),Yahoo (YHOO), and Zions Bancorporation (ZION).

AK Steel (AKS): Shares get slashed to Sell from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL): New week, same old story for the troubled tech stock, which finished Friday at a fresh 52-week trough. Today it is taken to Neutral from Outperform at Baird Equity Research. "We believe the shares could drop further, despite the sharp sell-off and valuation," analysts wrote in a note. The price objective, previously $570, is now $465.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY): Goldman Sachs gives BBBY a Sell-from-Neutral downgrade.

Brookfield Properties (BPO): The Real Estate Investment Trust is reduced to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

Corning (GLW): The glass-maker gets cut to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays.

Energizer (ENR): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal-Weight from Overweight.

Ford Motor (F): The car company is cut to Underperform from Neutral at Buckingham Research.

Joy Global (JOY): The maker of earth moving equipment is itself moved to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Hancock Holding (HBHC): Credit Suisse cuts the company to Underperform from Neutral amid lower than expected margins and earnings.

Navios Maritime Partners (NMM): The equity is now Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

NYSE Euronext (NYX): UBS cuts the exchange operator to Neutral from Buy.

PETsMART (PETM): Nomura moves the stock to Reduce from Neutral.

Plains All American (PAA): Shares are moved to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

SouFun Holdings (SFUN): Goldman downgrades the alternative energy outfit to Neutral from Buy.

Southern Copper (SCCO): BB&T Capital cuts the commodity company to Underweight from Hold.

State Street (STT): STT is taken to Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette.

VMware (VMW): Lazard lowers the tech firm to Neutral from Buy.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Raise a Toast to Heineken and Stock Upgrades: Dust Off Those Walkmans -- Sony's Suddenly Sexy Again.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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