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Stock Downgrades: Panera, Done Breaking Bread, Now Breaking Bad

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

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As Andy Petite -- who won his first World Series ring the last (latest?) time that there was a government shutdown in 1996 -- said goodbye, Mr. Market's problems are suddenly anything but petite. The S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX) has now slumped in six of its past seven sessions, a streak that looks set to continue this morning. With 1979 in the news again on account of Iran, a quote from Margaret Thatcher on November 12 of that year rang uncomfortably true for one plunging retailer She sagely said, "Pennies don't fall from heaven; they have to be earned here on earth," and the grande dame of capitalism clearly hadn't lost her Midas touch even in the week her ashes were interred.

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP), which imploded 30.2%, had a week from hell and just incurred another rating reduction. The Betty Ford clinic is merging and Henry Ford's (NYSE:F) car company appears similarly addicted to the malarkey that Mulally, a man in his 69th year, might be joining strong Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). And speaking of '69, the iconic Volkswagen (OTCMKTS:VLKAY) bus that drove untold thousands of hippies to a farm in upstate New York in August of that year, finally reached the end of the line. This as Facebook's(NASDAQ:FB) Sheryl Sandberg, who arrived on the scene 10 days after Woodstock - when some stragglers were still finding their way home like a rolling stone - surged 7.90%.

Today in economics, analysts expect an uptick in September's Purchasing Managers' Index at 9:45 a.m Eastern. On the corporate front, Cal-Maine Foods (NASDAQ:CALM), Diamond Foods (NASDAQ:DMND), GenCorp (NYSE:GY), Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX), and Park Electrochemical (NYSE:PKE) are all due to release quarterly results.

Achillion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ACHN): The biotech, falling 54% this morning, is taken to Neutral from Outperform by Robert W. Baird. The target price also gets slashed, by $8 to $4.

Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARIA): BMO Capital cuts the company to Market Perform from Outperform. Its price objective, previously $37, is now $21.

CH Robinson (NASDAQ:CHRW): The logistics company is lowered to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital.

International Paper (NYSE:IP): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers its rating to Neutral from Buy, sending shares down this morning.

JC Penney (NYSE:JCP): No relief for the troubled retailer, now Hold from Buy at Maxim.

Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI): Morgan Stanley gives the stock an unusual 180 degree downgrade (Underweight from Overweight), and takes its target to $40 from $45.

Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA): The fast food firm formerly known as Au Bon Pain is taken to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley, whose concerns include slowing same-store sales.

RealPage (NASDAQ:RP): Credit Suisse cuts the application software company to Underperform from Neutral.

Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS): Shares are reduced to Add from Buy at Numis.

Syngenta (NYSE:SYT): The agricultural chemicals company is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

WhiteWave Foods (NYSE:WWAV): The firm, whose brands include International Delight and Land O'Lakes, gets moved to Underperform from Market Perform by BMO Capital.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Buy Smucker Ahead of Washington Logjam and New Stock Coverage: Go the Extra Miley With CryusOne.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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