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Stock Downgrades: Bristol-Myers Isn't in the Best of Health

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

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From political troubles in Italy, the land of the leaning tower, to Spain, whose similarly tilting Bankia (PINK:BNKXF) just lost €19 billion, a widening wall of woe accumulates across the Atlantic. Yet still stocks continue to climb higher. This despite Congress dithering over $85 billion in automatic spending cuts while American's income posts its biggest drop in two decades.

In an age of austerity, maybe we could all learn a little something from the unexpected frugality of our sport stars. Spice Boy David Beckham now works for free, after all, and this certainly hasn't hurt spice stock McCormick & Company (MKC), which finished at an historic best on Friday. Ugg endorser Tom Brady can also afford his pay cut after Deckers Outdoor (DECK) jumped $6.06 on the week. Elsewhere JC Penney (JCP) is indeed continuing to offer investors an "Everyday low price" after plunging 16.97%.

Today's corporate earnings announcements are due to include Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA), Ascena Retail Group (ASNA), Boyd Gaming (BYD), Casella Waste (CWST), HSBC Holdings (HBC), Transocean (RIG), and Veeco Instruments (VECO).

Anglo American (PINK:AAUKY): The commodity company, which owns 85% of diamond giant De Beers, is now Reduce from Neutral at Nomura.

Aon plc (AON): Goldman Sachs gives the insurance outfit, recently trading at historic highs, a Neutral-from-Buy downgrade due to valuation. Its intact price objective is $62.

Ares Capital (ARCC): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Bristol-Myers (NYSE:BMY): The pharmaceutical giant gets lowered to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

CONSOL Energy (CNX): The coal company gets cut to Neutral from Buy at Goldman.

ExlService (EXLS): Shares are now Hold from Buy at Needham, which notes increased competition from big Information Technology services firms.

First PacTrust Bancorp (BANC): Saying shares are currently range-bound, Robert W. Baird reduces its rating to Neutral from Outperform and trims its target price by $2 to $11.

LaSalle Hotel (LHO): Goldman slashes the stock to Sell from Neutral.

Micron (MU): MU is moved to Neutral from Buy at Lazard.

Republic Airways (RJET): Bank of America-Merrill reduces RJET to Underperform from Neutral.

Southern Company (SO): Shares of the electric utility may indeed head south today after being taken to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Tiffany Still a Rough Diamond and Stock Upgrades: Telecommuting Ban a Home Run for Yahoo?)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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