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Stock Downgrades: Saying Goodbye to Goldman

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

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Apple Inc. (AAPL) lost 12.35%, ending at an 11-month low and causing one analyst to slash his price target to $888 from $1,111. ($666 seems more appropriate, in light of the satanic action in the stock, but with it now standing at a scant $450.50, that may not be realistic.)

The optimism of Brian White may now look off-base, but as Monty Python assured us in the aptly-named Life of Brian, it's important to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." Indeed the song said: "If life (and specifically Apple) seems jolly rotten, There's something you've forgotten, And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing…that's the thing."

Walter Piecyk appeared similarly foolish when predicting, during the dying days of the market's millennial madness, that Qualcomm (QCOM) - last trade: $64.40 - would hit $1,000. Fast forward to today, and the researcher looks like a genius for downgrading Apple almost a year ago. Elsewhere, we say farewell to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today. As highly intermittent filer of 1040 forms, he must be pleased to see TurboTax owner Intuit (INTU) incur a ratings reduction this morning.

Today in economics, analysts are expecting an increase in December new home sales at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. A breathless week for fourth quarter earnings announcements concludes with Covidien (COV), Halliburton (HAL), Honeywell (HON), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), Procter & Gamble (PG), Samsung Electronics (PINK:SSNLF), and Weyerhaeuser (WY) all due to report results.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK): The ammunition outfit is moved to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital, which has a price objective of $70.

Ford Motor (F): A second downgrade of this holiday-shortened week for the auto outfit, now Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS): Shares in the financial firm are falling before the bell on ratings reductions from both Citigroup (Neutral from Buy) and Deutsche Bank (Hold from Buy.)

IAMGOLD (IAG): IAG gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

International Speedway (ISCA): Troubled by continued softness in race admissions, Raymond James cuts the company to Market Perform from Outperform.

Intuit (INTU): The TurboTax owner, trading at all-time highs, is today taken to Equal Weight from Overweight at First Analysis.

Janus Capital (JNS): Credit Suisse cuts the company to Underperform from Neutral.

Medtronic (MDT): The medical device maker gets moved to Hold from Buy with Wunderlich.

Oracle (ORCL): Goldman pulls the enterprise software stock from its Conviction Buy list due to relative out-performance although its target price is actually taken up, by $2 to $39.

Safeway (SWY): The grocery giant gets downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight by Barclays.

Select Comfort (SCSS): Barclays moves the mattress maker, slumping 16.31% before the bell, to Equal Weight from Overweight.

Skullcandy (SKUL): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray amid a competitive environment and lack of near-term catalysts. The target is slashed to $7 from $15.

Swatch (PINK:SWGAY): HSBC Securities reduces its rating to Neutral from Overweight.

United Continental (UAL): Bank of America-Merrill Lynch lowers the air carrier to Underperform from Neutral, sending the stock down more than 4% in pre-market activity.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Tiffany's Time to Shine? and New Stock Coverage: Cash in the Attic at eBay.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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