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Stock Downgrades: Heather Bellini Says Microsoft's Champagne Era Is Over

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

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Yesterday marked the anniversary of The Great Gatsby's publication, bang in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. Alas as we now know that decade ended in tears but boy, what a swell party it was. Our current equity boom may yet meet a similar fate, although for now let's just enjoy all the irrational exuberance. Shares surged to new records and, for once, even Bill Ackman found no reason to tear out his remaining gray hairs after JC Penney (JCP) rose 1.15% to recover a small fraction of Tuesday's tumble. Elsewhere it was a tale of two Grey Ladies in midtown Manhattan, with the New York Times (NYT) surging 4.51% while Christine Lagarde addressed the Economic Club of New York. It was a fine time to be behind bars, as Anheuser-Busch (BUD) rose 3.15% to a historic best while prison operator Corrections Corp. of America (CXW) advanced 3.38%, a level it last saw in September 1999. And 1990′s nostalgists wistful for a return to the "Wintel" duopoly of old basked in Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) rising a respective 2.26% and 2.35%. Enjoy the soiree while it lasts because, as Jay Gatsby eventually learned, it never does, and the resultant hangover can be brutal.

Today's quarterly earnings announcements are due to include Commerce Bancshares (CBSH), JB Transport Services (JBHT), Pier 1 Imports (PIR), Rite Aid (RAD), and Roche Holding (PINK:RHHCY).

Associated British Foods (PINK:ASBFY) Shares are taken to Hold from Buy at Societe Generale.

Family Dollar (FDO): The discount retail name is now Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs.

IAMGOLD (IAG): IAG gets downgraded to Sell from Hold at Societe Generale.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT): She may share a surname with a prosecco sparkling wine cocktail but Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs is today roasting, not toasting, the PC powerhouse. The researcher reduces her recommendation on the key Dow (^DJI) component to Neutral from Buy, and wrote in a note that, "The company faces critical secular challenges given the deteriorating PC demand backdrop." Shares are sliding some 3.47% before the opening bell as a result.

Sigma-Aldrich (SIAL): The stock is slashed to Sell from Neutral at Goldman.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Xerox Is Reproducing Its Glory Days and Stock Upgrades: Adobe About to Jump on Acrobat.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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