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Stock Downgrades: Lights Go Out on General Electric


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

You know things are bad when Iceland, unlikely epicenter of the 2008 financial crisis, and Greece, current poster child for economic failure, are the only markets in all of Europe that actually increased on the week.

The worldwide tale of woe ultimately encompassed America, where stocks posted their worst performance of the year, but it originated in China. Eight is a lucky number over there whereas in the west it is seven that is seen as fortunate. Hence Beijing reporting a growth rate of "only" 7.7%, instead of the expected 8%, sent shares slumping.

Some equities did buck a bad tape. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) gained 7.1% and is now up some 56% since October alone. An investment bigwig recently said its "gourmet burrito is an oxymoron," but the company would likely return the compliment on him, maybe minus the first two syllables of the last word.

In a cratering commodity complex, copper officially entered a bear market, gold endured its single worst day in 33 years, and silver slumped 13%. This as Great Britain buried its iconic Iron Lady. Fitch, clearly no dummy and unwilling to risk her wrath, waited until Maggie had sadly departed the scene to downgrade the country's credit rating. Not coincidentally, on the same day an analyst also cut the maker of one of Mrs. Thatcher's favorite accessories. Fear not, however, for the former Prime Minister is such a staunch proponent of capitalism she can even resuscitate it from beyond the grave.

This morning in economics, March existing home sales are expected to increase from the prior month's pace at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Peak earnings week is upon us, with today's key results due to include Caterpillar (CAT), Halliburton (HAL), Hasbro (HAS), Netflix (NFLX), Texas Instruments (TXN), and Zions Bancorp (ZION).

Alkermes (ALKS): Lazard Capital lowers the company to Neutral from Buy.

CoreSite Realty (COR): COR is cut to Equal Weight from Overweight at Evercore.

Ericsson (ERIC): Société Générale slashes the Swedish telecom titan to Sell from Hold.

General Electric (GE): The key Dow (^DJI) component, which fell 4.06% on Friday after issuing earnings, is now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan. The target is taken to $22 from $24 amid smaller profit margins and slower growth.

Kimberly-Clark (KMB): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the Kleenex maker to Neutral from Buy.

McCormick (MKC): The spice stock, recently trading atop historic highs, gets moved to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc amid concerns its valuation is now a little lofty.

McDonald's (MCD): Crédit Agricole cuts the Dow member, which like GE announced its earnings on Friday, to Outperform from Buy.

Metals & Mining: Deutsche Bank downgrades both Barrick Gold (ABX) and Kinross Gold (KGC) to Hold from Buy and slashes Newmont Mining (NEM) to Sell from Hold.

OAO Gazprom (PINK:OGZPY) Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities, which trims its price objective to $8.80 from $11.50.

Penn National Gaming (PENN): The casino company gets cut to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Under Armour (UA): Shares are now Neutral from Buy at Buckingham Research.

Verizon (VZ): A third Dow downgrade of the day, as Macquarie moves the recently surging blue chip to Neutral from Outperform due to a slowdown in wireless revenue growth.

Wipro (WIT): Jefferies cuts the Indian outsourcing and Information Technology giant to Hold from Buy.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Planet Payment Is Out of This World and Stock Upgrades: Has Worm Finally Turned on Apple?)
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