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Stock Downgrades: Leap Wireless About to Take Big Step Back

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

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Stocks surged, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) ending up 1.74%, as jobless claims touched another near five-year trough. (Although, ironically, the cast of Nice Work If You Can Get It are about to be added to the nation's unemployment lines.) Nasdaq (^IXIC) advanced 2.28% to top all three major averages after a 6.8% advance in Apple Inc. (AAPL) convinced investors that that its stock is now a steal having hit bottom, so to speak.

The CBOE, founded on April 26, 1973, learned that life does not, in fact, begin at 40. Octogenarian George Soros, who has a new lease on life, invested in JC Penney (JCP), which jumped 11.4% on the week. Aviation stock and key Dow (^DJI) component Boeing (BA) gained 5.6% to hit a more than half decade high, even as many frequent flyers were grounded by our elected officials' infuriating inability to spell.

Today in economics, March pending home sales are forecast to show a pick up from February's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, it's another frenzied week for first quarter earnings with announcements expected out of AVEO Pharmaceuticals (AVEO), Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), Deutsche Börse (PINK:DBOEY), Express Scripts (ESRX), Herbalife (HLF), J&J Snack Foods (JJSF), Loews Corporation (L), Masco (MAS), Newmont Mining (NEM), and Riverbed Technology (RVBD).

Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM): HSBC reduces its recommendation to Underweight from Equal Weight, with a new lower target price of $28.60.

Anheuser-Busch (BUD): A second downgrade in as many trading days for the brewer, today taken to Market Perform from Outperform by Sanford Bernstein.

BASF AG (PINK:BASFY): Credit Suisse gives the German chemical giant a downgrade to Neutral from Outperform.

Cerner (CERN): The recommendation is reduced to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James.

Commodity Companies: African Barrick Gold (PINK:ABGLY) and Gold Fields (GFI) are each now Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities, which reduces its price objective on the latter to $7.90 from $11.20

Digital Realty Trust (DLR): The office Real Estate Investment Trust gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at ISI Group.

Eastman (EMN): JPMorgan moves the chemical company to Neutral from Overweight.

Ecolab (ECL): Shares are reduced to Neutral from Outperform at Robert W. Baird, whose new objective is $88 primarily. Among its concerns are increasing operational risks and a lack of upcoming catalysts.

Fly Leasing (FLY): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Reed Elsevier (ENL): Citi cuts the European company, which owns the LexisNexis legal database, to Neutral from Buy. Shares, up strongly year to date, are sharply lower in today's London trading as a result.

Gannett (GCI): The USA Today owner gets downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight by Barclays, sending it sliding in the pre-market.

IberiaBank (IBKC): Keefe Bruyette cuts the company to Market Perform from Outperform.

Jetblue Airways (JBLU): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP): LEAP is lowered to downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Master Limited Partnerships: Robert W. Baird gives Neutral-from-Outperform ratings reductions to Breitburn Energy (BBEP) ($24 target), NGL Energy Partners (NGL) ($29), Regency Energy Partners (RGP) ($28), Summit Midstream Partners (SMLP) ($29), Targa Resources (NGLS) ($49), and Vanguard Natural Resources (VNR) ($31). Headwinds include valuation, upcoming equity issuance, and seasonal weakness for the sector that tends to start in May

Republic Services (RSG): Credit Suisse lowers the waste management firm to Neutral from Outperform.

Sprint Nextel (S): Shares get downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Guggenheim.

Unicredit S.p.A (PINK:UNCFF): The Italian financial firm gets slashed to Sell from Hold at Société Générale.

Union Pacific (UNP): TD Securities reduces the railroad to Hold from Buy.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Madison Square Garden Coming Up Roses and Stock Upgrades: Disney Turning 'Iron Man' Into Box Office Gold.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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