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Stock Downgrades: Norfolk Southern Corp. Heads South in a Hurry

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

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No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Shares ended broadly lower in tight trading after an economic index out of Old Dominion revealed unexpected weakness. For good measure, Richmond-based Altria (MO), maker of Virginia Slims, tumbled 2.41% in a terrible tobacco tape. Helicopter Ben Bernanke, invariably bearing gifts and sporting a similar white beard, does a pretty passable imitation of Saint Nick, of course. Sikorsky chopper owner United Technologies (UTX) didn't need our Fed head to provide it a lift, however. It topped all Dow (^DJI) issues, advancing 2.95% to hit the highest level in its history. Diana Containerships (DCIX) gained 3.57% on the day shy Di spoke to us from beyond the grave in Great Britain. When the royal tiny tot is old enough, he may play with timeless classic Monopoly. A new version dispenses with jail in our speeded-up age. A hedge fund heavy should be so lucky.

This morning in economics, analysts expect an increase in June new home sales at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the corporate front, the midpoint of the busiest week for quarterly earnings announcements is upon us. Today's results are due to include Akamai (AKAM), Baidu (BIDU), Boeing (BA), Canon (CAJ),Caterpillar (CAT), Daimler (DDAIF), Eli Lilly (LLY), Facebook (FB), Ford (F), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), PepsiCo (PEP), Qualcomm (QCOM), and Visa (V).

Alon USA Partners (ALDW): Shares are now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Broadcom (BRCM): Shares, imploding over 8% ahead of the open, are now Neutral from Buy at Mizuho.

CapitalSource (CSE): CSE is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Crane Company (CR): Citi cuts the company to Neutral from Buy.

DISH Network (DISH): Shares are slashed to Hold from Buy with Wunderlich, whose amended price objective is $50. Regulatory concerns regarding a merger with DirecTV (DTV) remain a real risk, the broker believes.

DuPont (DD): The chemical company, a key Dow (^DJI) component, gets downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Gulfmark Offshore (GLF): GLF gets downgraded to Neutral from Accumulate at Global Hunter.

Heineken (HINKY): The Dutch brewing behemoth is taken to Neutral from Outperform at BNP Paribas.

Homebuilders: Compass Point lowers Lennar Corp (LEN) and PulteGroup (PHM), each now Neutral from Buy.

Mattress Firm Holding (MFRM): Shares are slashed to Hold from Buy at Stifel.

Murphy Oil (MUR): The energy outfit is moved to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital Markets.

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch reduces the railroad to Underperform from Neutral.

PACCAR (PCAR): The truck maker's stock is trading lower before the bell on a Neutral-from-Overweight ratings reduction at Piper Jaffray, whose analyst wrote in a note that their market share in Britain "could be a burden in 2014" as legal requirements increase.

Polycom (PLCM): RBC Capital reduces its rating to Underperform from Sector Perform.

Portland Gen Electric (POR): Deutsche Bank downgrades the utility to Hold from Buy.

ValueClick (VCLK): Goldman gives the stock a Neutral-from-Buy downgrade.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Stock Up on Costco Wholesale Corporation and Stock Upgrades: Apple Inc. Bites Back.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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