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Stock Downgrades: There's the Beef With Wendy's

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

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Investors went long equities in the year's shortest month, ensuring February bucked its historically bad reputation on Wall Street. The Pope left his job willingly yesterday but the same couldn't be said of a music major who directed Jesus Christ Superstar before going on to run Groupon (GRPN). Its unloved stock tumbled 24.28% as Andrew Mason exited.

"Have gun, will travel" proved to be profitable advice as firearms firm Sturm Ruger (RGR) added on another 2.06% after its profit hit a 25-year high, while Dow (^DJI) component Travelers (TRV) – already up 12% this year - reached another historic peak. The cover curse is alive and well at The Atlantic as robot surgery pioneer Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) imploded 11.09%. Fortune Magazine isn't quite such a contrary indicator, however, as its just-lauded eBay Inc. (EBAY) rode bullish research to rise 1.03%.

Today in economics, at 9:55 a.m. Eastern we get the final February figure for consumer confidence from the University of Michigan, followed at 10:00 a.m. by both January construction spending and last month's Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index. On the earnings front, Best Buy (BBY), Foster Wheeler (FWLT),Lloyds Banking Group (LYG), Pepco Holdings (POM), Vanguard Natural Resources (VNR), and British-based advertising giant WPP plc (PINK:WPPGY) are all expected to release results.

American International Group (AIG): Evercore cuts the company to Equal Weight from Overweight as it views the risk/reward ratio as now being roughly balanced.

Cablevision (CVC): Shares are downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $15 target price with Wunderlich, which says that this remains a transitional year for the company even after Super Storm Sandy effects abate.

CNOOC Ltd (CEO): China's oil giant is now Reduce from Neutral at Nomura.

Con-way (CNW): A steep share price multiple sees the transport name taken to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.

Darden Restaurants (DRI): UBS reduces the owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster to Neutral from Buy.

Deutsche Bank (DB): Goldman Sachs slashes its fellow financial to Sell from Neutral, sending it slumping some 6% before this morning's opening bell.

Duke Energy (DUK): DUK gets downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Fulton Financial (FULT): The regional bank is now Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee.

Micros Systems (MCRS): Shares are taken to Hold from Buy at Jefferies.

OmniVision (OVTI): Raymond James reduces its recommendation to Market Perform from Outperform.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS): Société Générale reduces its rating to Hold from Buy. The stock, a poor performer yesterday, is sliding further this morning as a result.

Signet Jewelers (SIG): The stock is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

US Silica (SLCA): Shares are slashed to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

VISA Inc. (V): Argus cuts the credit card company to Hold from Buy on account of what it views as an excessive valuation.

Weatherford International (WFT): BMO Capital cuts the oil services outfit to Underperform from Market Perform due to its disappointing quarterly earnings. Its new price objective is $11, down from $14.

Wendy's (NASDAQ:WEN): Morgan Stanley moves the fast food firm, famous for its "Where's the Beef?" catchphrase, to Underweight from Equal-Weight. Marco economic pressures and increased competition are each cited, and the price target is $5.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: Perry Ellis Is Dressed for Success and Stock Upgrades: Bulls Are Eyeing Target.)
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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