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Stock Downgrades: Pottery Barn Owner Williams-Sonoma Needs to Take a Break

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

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Stocks for once failed to break records, thanks to a broken record. John Williams of the San Francisco Fed sent stocks slumping on April 3 by suggesting quantitative easing will end. That essentially the same speech could exert an identical impact on May 16 speaks volumes about an Attention Deficit Syndrome which inflicts modern equity markets. As American Idol ended its season and The Office its series, an unexpected increased in idle office workers as evidenced in weekly unemployment claims spooked investors.

An art auction pulled in almost half a billion bucks and life imitated art in advertising, where Don Draper's ebullient industry was mirrored in Omnicom (OMC) hitting an all-time high and Interpublic (IPG) scoring a broker boost. Elsewhere Chiquita Brands (CQB) jumped 2.57% to a fresh 52-week peak as soccer star blessed with unbeatable banana kicks decided to end it like Beckham.

Today in economics, the University of Michigan's preliminary May consumer sentiment survey and April leading indicators are each expected to improve at 9:55 a.m. Eastern and 10:00 a.m., respectively. In earnings action, look for results from Donaldson Company (DCI), Quality Systems (QSII), and Stage Stores (SSI).

Autodesk (ADSK): Shares are slashed to Sector Perform from Outperform at Pacific Crest.

Applied Materials (AMAT): DA Davidson downgrades the stock to Neutral from Buy, trimming its target price by $2 to $15 from $17 due to a plump valuation that sees it trade at 15 times the broker's calendar year 2014 Earnings Per Share estimates.

Aruba Networks (ARUN): Citing both competition from Cisco Systems (CSCO) and a substantial earnings shortfall, Needham takes the tech name to Hold from Buy.

Brocade (BRCS): Shares are now Underperform from Market Perform at William Blair.

British American Tobacco (BTI): Shares, recently atop historic highs, are lower in today's London trading after being moved to Underweight at Credit Suisse.

Così Inc. (COSI): The flat-bread sandwich chain is cut to Market Perform from Outperform at Northland Capital, which notes heightened uncertainty following its first quarter results.

Deere (DE): Goldman Sachs slashes the troubled tractor titan to Sell from Neutral due to an expected 15% decline in domestic spending on agricultural equipment.

HSBC Holdings (HBC): The banking giant gets downgraded to Neutral from Outperform by BNP Paribas.

Johnson Matthey (OTCMKTS:JMPLY): Goldman pulls the British specialty chemicals company from its list of Conviction Buys.

L Brands (LTD): The owner of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Henri Bendel, which was known until March as Limited Brands, gets lowered to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies. Issues include profit margin pressure and stalling growth in sales.

Manning & Napier Advisors (MN): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch moves the money manager to Underperform from Neutral.

MeadWestvaco (MWV): RBC Capital reduces its rating to Underperform from Sector Perform.

Savient Pharmaceuticals (SVNT): The stock is slashed to Market Perform from Outperform by William Blair.

TRW Automotive (TRW): Deutsche Bank takes TRW to Hold from Buy.

Universal Health (UHS): Shares are now Neutral from Positive at Susquehanna.

Walt Disney (DIS): The recently-surging Dow (^DJI) company is cut to Neutral from Overweight at Atlantic Equities.

Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the owner of Pottery Barn to Neutral from Buy. A strong recent run in the stock, now up 52.24% in the past year, has left it due a breather.

Zimmer Holdings (ZMH): The medical device maker gets moved to Reduce from Neutral at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Analyst Has Hang-Ups About AT&T and Stock Upgrades: General Motors on Road to Riches.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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