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Stock Downgrades: It's Open Season on OpenTable

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

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Cher and cockroaches, a wit once said, will be the sole survivors of a nuclear war. With North Korea threatening us with mushroom clouds, a Twitter mix-up with Britain's dearly departed Prime Minister seemed to suggest that it was the singer who left us.

If, however, the unthinkable occurs and she does in fact shuffle off her mortal coil before we are all atomized, fear not, for an inexorably rising equity market can quickly step into the breach of indestructibility. The Dow Average (^DJI) and S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) each reached fresh peaks, in a fitting coda for one of capitalism's staunchest supporters.

Mrs. Thatcher once said, "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman." Very true, although she will still have enjoyed English money manager Man Group (PINK MNGPY) - CEO, one Manny Roman - surging 20% in its best week for four years.

The Iron Lady received her moniker from Moscow. Red Square intended the description as a slur, but she proudly wore it as a badge of honor, declaring that "Any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them, so I am not that put out [at the nickname]." (Incidentally Evraz (PINK:EVRZF), Russia's largest steel stock, nosedived 9.9% in London last week after suspending its dividend. Message: Don't mess with Maggie, even in the afterlife.)

No top-tier economic data due today but the first full week of earnings season starts with a financial flair, as Charles Schwab (SCHW), Citigroup (C), First Republic Bank (FRC), and M&T Bank (MTB) are all expected to report results.

Barrick Gold (ABX): JPMorgan moves the shares to Neutral from Overweight.

Coal Companies: Arch Coal (ACI) and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) are each now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Commodity Companies: With metal stocks moving sharply lower as we speak in the wake of disappointing economic growth in China overnight, Citi slashes Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) and Harmony Gold (HMY) to Sell from Neutral and lowers Noranda Aluminum (NOR) to Neutral from Buy.

Infosys (NYSE:INFY): The Indian outsourcer, which tumbled 20.68% on Friday, is now Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Kansas City Southern (KSU): Bank of America-Merrill cuts KSU to Neutral from Buy.

OpenTable (NASDAQ:OPEN): JPMorgan reduces the online restaurant reservation outfit to Neutral from Overweight.

Saks Incorporated (SKS): Troubled by luxury spending softness amid higher income taxes, JPMorgan lowers the upscale retailer to Neutral from Overweight.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM): Morgan Stanley takes the tech stock to Equal-Weight from Overweight.

Varian Medical (VAR): Morgan Stanley moves the stock to Underweight from Equal-Weight.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Software Stocks Got You Down? Try Restoration Hardware and Stock Upgrades: Sherwin-Williams Prepares to Paint Town Red, Tape Green.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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