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Stock Downgrades: Intrepid Potash, Inc. Goes to Pot

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

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Stocks marked time awaiting the Fed, although keeping the meter running proved mighty profitable for postage firm Pitney Bowes (PBI), whose 12.77% advance topped the entire S&P 500 Index (^GSPC). It is based in Stamford, where a big fat check is always in the mail, unless of course you happen to be a hedge fund. Continuing a bad week for cartels, ominous developments from the fertilizer version sent Intrepid Potash (IPI) plunging 28.55%. News that J.P. Morgan (JPM) "inked a $410 million deal" to settle alleged hanky panky did nothing for America's premier pen maker as A.T. Cross (ATX) fell 4.69%. (Given Ben Bernanke's proclivity for cheap plastic writing instruments, it's no wonder.) And speaking of pens, a secretary was sent to the penitentiary for taking advantage of the wisdom of Salomon in his 100th year.

Today in economic data, the July Chicago Purchasing Managers Index is expected to improve from the prior month's pace at 9:45 a.m. Eastern. The Federal Open Market Committee concludes its two-day policy meeting, with an interest rate announcement anticipated at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. On the earnings front, Allstate (ALL), Anheuser-Busch (BUD), BNP Paribas (BNPQY), CBS Corp (CBS), Comcast (CMCSA), MasterCard (MA), MetLife (MET), Volkswagen (VLKAY), Whole Foods (WFM), Honda (HMC), Sodastream (SODA), Dreamworks Animation (DWA), and Yelp Inc. (YELP) are all due to report results.

Agree Realty (ADC): Shares get downgraded to Hold from Buy with Wunderlich, whose new target price is $34.

Agrium (AGU): The fertilizer firm, coming off an absolutely awful day for the industry, is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Barclays (BCS): Société Générale slashes its slumping fellow financial firm to Hold from Buy. Yesterday the shares fell 5.7% for their worst showing in 13 months.

BioCryst Pharmceuticals (BCRX): Shares are lowered to Underperform from Neutral by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST): CBST gets cut to Neutral from Buy at Goldman Sachs, which also pulls the stock from its Conviction Buy List.

Diageo (DEO): The maker of Guinness, Johnnie Walker, and Smirnoff gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord Genuity. Shares are, however, showing impressive earnings-related strength in London this morning.

Intrepid Potash, Inc. (IPI): Shares are downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight by Barclays after yesterday's 28.55% plunge.

Jacobs Engineering (JEC): The industrial outfit gets moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital, whose revised price objective is $63.

Mosaic (MOS): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Equal-Weight from Overweight.

Northern Tier Energy (NTI): NTI is now Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie.

NVIDIA (NVDA): The tech name is taken to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo.

Optimer Pharmaceuticals (OPTR): Shares are reduced to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

Potash (POT): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at UBS and Underperform from Outperform at Credit Suisse. Shares, which slumped along with industry peers yesterday, are giving back an additional 1.17% as I write.

Riverbed Technology (RVBD): Pacific Crest reduces the presently-plunging stock to Perform from Outperform.

Rockwell Automation (ROK): The stock is downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells.

RR Donnelley (RRD): RRD is reduced to Hold from Buy with an amended $20 price objective by Benchmark due to valuation issues after yesterday's 16.49% surge in the stock.

SanDisk (SNDK): BMO Capital cuts the technology company to Underperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital.

Spirit Airlines (SAVE): The stock is slashed to Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Sprint (S): Shares are downgraded to Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital, whose concerns include increasing competitive pressure in the postpaid market from Verizon (VZ) among others.

ThyssenKrupp (TYEKF): Citing concerns about a fresh capital raise, UBS takes the German giant down 180 degrees (Sell from Buy). Shares are slumping more than 3% in today's European trading as a result.

Xylem (XYL): Atlantic Equities is among a number of downgrades on the diversified machinery name today, moving it to Neutral from Overweight.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Cloudy Outlook at Cablevision Systems Corporation and Stock Upgrades: Swim With the Sharks of Discovery Communications Inc.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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