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Stock Downgrades: Ketchup King Heinz Can't Cut the Mustard

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

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The Year of the Snake usually means snake eyes for stocks, but so far one of their members - Monty Python - is being proved right. "Now for something completely different" was the slogan of the British comedy troupe and, in a welcome change from the historically poor reputation of this Chinese zodiac sign in equities, markets have continued to head higher.

Tomorrow is all about couples, but J.M. Smucker (SJM), maker of K-Cup coffee singles, rose 2.45% to an all time high on an upgrade. Elsewhere Apple Inc. (AAPL) tumbled 2.51% after Tim Cook said, "The only thing we'll never do is make a crappy product." (Users of its map apps may beg to differ and the supplier of its cursed cartography, TomTom (PINK:TMOAY), nosedived 9.49% even as he spoke.) Meanwhile Carnival Corp. (CCL), whose passengers have had quite enough of crappy products while stranded at sea with five working toilets for 4,200 people, preposterously added on another 0.77% to end near a new best.

Today in economics, December business inventories are due out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, Avis Budget (CAR), Cisco Systems (CSCO),Deere (DE), EOG Resources (EOG), Lorillard (LO), MetLife (MET), NetApp (NTAP), Société Générale (PINK:SCGLY), Whole Foods (WFM), and Zillow (Z) are all expected to release results.

Bankrate (RATE): RATE is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Clearwire (CLWR): Raymond James reduces its rating to Underperform from Perform.

Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF): Shares in the iron ore outfit, tumbling 12.18% in today's pre-market trading, are slashed to Hold from Buy with a $32 target price at Deutsche Bank. Issues include a reduced dividend and weaker earnings outlook.

Dell Inc. (DELL): The company is moved to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.

Fossil (FOSL): FBR Capital cuts the surging watch company to Underperform from Perform with a price objective of $95. The broker points out that earnings growth is decelerating, with issues becoming apparent in both Asia and Europe.

H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ): Troubled by a steep valuation following good gains, UBS takes the stock to Neutral from Buy with a $62 target price. Shares are falling ahead of the open as a result.

Meredith Corp (MDP): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Roth Capital.

Rent-A-Center (RCII): Stifel Nicolaus slashes the stock to Hold from Buy, citing a slowdown in its core business.

Rexnord (RXN): The diversified machinery maker is moved to Equal Weight from Overweight by Barclays after yesterday's 3.91% jump.

Ruckus Wireless (RKUS): RKUS gets reduced to Hold from Buy Needham, which notes that the stock multiple is stretched after gaining over 65% since going public.

Sapient (SAPE): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Citi.

Virgin Media (VMED): Evercore lowers its rating to Equal Weight from Overweight.

WellPoint (WLP): Expressing surprise at the company having hired relative unknown Joseph Swedish as its new CEO, Monness Crespi cuts the managed care provider to Neutral from Buy.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Red Ink at Red Lobster Owner Darden Restaurants and Stock Upgrades: Pucker Up to Avon Products.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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