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Stock Downgrades: Valassis Is in a Pickle


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

Stocks in a swoon, Greece on strike, Washington beset by gridlock, and Europe a mess. Just like old times, and as a result markets stand on the brink of their first loss of 2013. NYSE volume hit its highest since December 21, 2012. That winter solstice was the year's darkest day but sun worshipers had only heartache yesterday with JinkoSolar (JKS) and Canadian Solar (CSIQ) sliding a respective 12.15% and 11.59%.

Bank of America (BAC) plunged 3.22% for the Dow's (^DJI) biggest drop, fully justifying the enormous pay raise of its CEO. Variously pegged at both 71% and 73%; it is Wall Street after all, where fuzzy math runs amok. Elsewhere Robert Benmosche, chief executive of American International Group (AIG) can afford more extravagant vacations after holiday rental site HomeAway (AWAY) surged 13.34% and with his own stock up 3.92% ahead of this morning's opening bell.

No top-tier economic data due today, but quarterly earnings announcements are expected out of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), Barnes Group (B), Charter Communications (CHTR), Gardner Denver (GDI), Interpublic Group (IPG), Warner Chilcott (WCRX), and Washington Post (WPO).

Aircastle (AYR): Dahlman Rose reduces its recommendation to Hold from Buy, suggesting that the stock is appropriately valued at present, especially in light of its exposure to the air freight market.

BlackBerry (BBRY): MKM Partners moves the firm, formerly known as Research in Motion, to Sell from Neutral. Concerns include a later-than-expected launch of the BlackBerry 10 in the United States.

BP Plc (BP): The oil outfit is cut to Hold from Buy at Canaccord due to an excessive relative valuation.

Comcast (CMCSA): Macquarie moves the cable company to Neutral from Outperform.

C.R. Bard (BCR): Goldman gives the firm a Sell-from-Neutral downgrade due lowered assumptions for its peripheral drug eluting balloon. The target price is also trimmed by $4, to $95.

Cypress Sharpridge Investments (CYS): CYS gets moved to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities.

E*TRADE (ETFC): The discount broker is downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Nomura on account of valuation issues. Its price objective is $11.

First Solar (FSLR): Shares are sharply lower this morning after getting reduced to Underperform from Sector Perform at Pacific Crest.

Imax Corp. (IMAX): No Hollywood end to the week for the cinema stock ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards, as it is taken to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus.

JAKKS Pacific (JAKK): Stifel Nicolaus takes the toymaker to Hold from Buy.

Mosaic (MOS): Dahlman Rose downgrades the fertilizer firm to Hold from Buy.

NetSpend (NTSP): NTSP is now Neutral from Buy at Citigroup.

Suez Environment (PINK:SZEVY) JP Morgan moves the stock to Neutral from Overweight.

Swift Energy (SFY): Citing both disappointing earnings guidance and a lack of execution, Brean Capital slashes SFY to Hold from Buy.

Teekay Tankers (TNK): Troubled by its dividend policy change, Wells Fargo takes TNK to Market Perform from Outperform. It now sees fair value in the range of $3.00 to $4.00, down from $5.00 to $6.00 previously.

Valassis (NYSE:VCI): The coupon company - not to be confused with the pickle company - is downgraded to Hold from Buy with a new lower target of $30 at Benchmark, which says a slowdown in Shared Mail revenue is a concern. Shares tumbled 10.23% on Thursday.

VeriFone (PAY): After yesterday's steep slide, Argus cuts the stock to Hold from Buy.

Volcano Corp. (VOLC): Goldman cuts the company to Neutral from Conviction Buy with a $25 price target after its fourth quarter report pointed to slowing growth going forward.
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