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Stock Downgrades: Cash Is Not JC Penney's Middle Name

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

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A recent record run in stocks suddenly stalled on the unlikely shores of Cyprus after the island's clumsy attempts to tax bank accounts annoyed Mother Russia and Mister Market alike. As any student of equities can tell you, after the bubble invariably comes the bath, and wherever Moscow is involved, that bath water often hides deadly secrets.

The lights went out for Earth Hour and Zero Dark Thirty Producer Megan Ellison saw her father, America's third richest man, endure cloud-related shadows as Oracle (ORCL) imploded an S&P 500 (^GSPC) worst 12%. And investors everywhere asked "what's in a name?" Fannie Mae (PINK:FNMA), whose ex-CEO had a last name that was quite literally Mudd, jumped 98%, BlackBerry (BBRY) - long known as Research in Motion - is slumping this morning, and JC Penney (NYSE:JCP), whose founder's middle name was Cash, is today enduring similar trouble.

It's a second straight session without any top-tier economic data, but earnings action includes Apollo Group (APOL), Dollar General (DG), Focus Media (FMCN), JA Solar (JASO), and Sonic Corporation (SONC).

Airgas (ARG): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the stock to Underperform from Neutral amid weakness in non-residential construction, among other issues. Its price objective, previously $94, is now $92.

Aviva (AV): Investec cuts its investment opinion on AV considerably, to Reduce from Buy.

AXIS Capital (AXS): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs.

BlackBerry (BBRY): The firm formerly known as Research in Motion gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs, which characterizes Friday's US launch of is Z10 device as "disappointing." Competition from the likes of Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Nokia (NOK) is an added issue, and shares are currently sliding some 6.51% ahead of the open as a result.

Celgene (CELG): Citing a steep current valuation after a strong recent run in the stock, WallachBeth cuts CELG to Hold from Buy.

Check Point Software (CHKP): Lazard lowers the name to Neutral from Buy.

CIT Group (CIT): The financial firm gets cut to Neutral from Buy at Compass Point due to valuation.

Comstock (CRK): BMO Capital cuts CRK to Market Perform from Outperform.

Finish Line (FINL): The athletic apparel outfit is now Underperform From Neutral by Sterne Agee.

Iberdrola (PINK:IBDRY): JPMorgan moves the Spanish energy stock to Underweight from Neutral.

International Game Technology (IGT): IGT gets downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP): The currently beleaguered company founded by one James Cash Penney in April 1902 is now Underperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital. Shares are slumping 1.81% in today's pre-market trading after the analyst action.

Lear Corp. (LEA): Goldman pulls the stock from its list of Conviction Buys.

Life Technologies (LIFE): Citigroup lowers LIFE to Neutral from Buy.

MeadWestvaco (MWV): The paper and packaging powerhouse gets moved to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Mylan Labs (MYL): Sanford Bernstein lowers the stock to Market Perform from Outperform.

Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN): The oil services firm is moved to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Property & Casualty Insurance: Goldman Sachs gives Sell-from-Neutral ratings reductions to PartnerRe (PRE) and RenaissanceRe (RNR).

Red Hat (RHT): Raymond James reduces RHT to Market Perform from Outperform.

Rémy Cointreau (PINK: REMYF): The cognac comapny is cut to Reduce from Neutral at Nomura.

Sigma-Aldrich (SIAL): SIAL is slashed to Underperform from Neutral at Bank of America-Merrill.

SPX Corporation (SPW): The industrial outfit gets downgraded by both Deutsche Bank (Buy from Hold) and JPMorgan (Neutral from Overweight.).

Textron (TXT): JPMorgan takes TXT to Neutral from Overweight.

Virtusa (VRTU): VRTU gets moved to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

Whole Foods (WFM): Troubled by a leveling off in comparative store sales, Piper Jaffray takes the upscale grocer to Neutral from Overweight.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Shutterfly Stock Picture Perfect and Stock Upgrades: You're in Good Hands With Allstate.)

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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