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Stock Downgrades: Wall Street, Why Did U-Turn on Tesla?

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

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It was a decent day for Whitehouse Station, if not the White House. Dow Industrials (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dismissed the government shutdown to end up, paced by a 2.38% advance in Merck (NYSE:MRK), which for a little while longer can still call that New Jersey town its home. As for President Obama, he likely didn't enjoy the lockout as much as his predecessor, as the last time Uncle Sam was closed, an intern infamously showed him "the straps of her thong underwear." The rest, invariably written by the victors, is history. (Or his story, between whose covers, as Mark Steyn astutely pointed out in reviewing Bill Clinton's autobiography My Life, "The index lists more pages for 'bin Laden, Osama' than 'Jones, Paula,' which isn't how it seemed at the time.") Thongs are apparently still selling well, to judge by Victoria's Secret owner L Brands (NYSE:LTD) jumping 1.24% to an historic high. As indeed did Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ), so integral to Bubba and Monica's relationship. Shares ended up 2.31%, probably on account of the government deeming the fast food a vegetable. And, with John Boehner getting ready to tear into Obama, TearLab (NASDAQ:TEAR) surged some 11.48%. You can bet that there wasn't a dry eye in the House.

Speaking of tears, there is no top-tier economic data due today, and even if there were, good luck hearing about it, thanks to Uncle Sam's shutdown. Corporate earnings announcements are due to include Monsanto (NYSE:MON), Tesco (OTCMKTS:TSCDY), and Texas Industries (NYSE:TXI).

Alcoa (NYSE:AA): More bad news for the commodity company, which was dumped from the Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) last week after 54 years. Today shares are slipping before the bell after being slashed to Sell from Hold by Deutsche Bank, which is troubled by a lower aluminum price outlook.

AptarGroup (NYSE:ATR): Shares are now Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan.

ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH): The English chip name, an important Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) supplier, is now Neutral from Buy at Natixis.

Baxter International (NYSE:BAX): The medical device maker is moved to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse, which takes also lowers its price objective by $8 to $73.

Deutsche Lufthansa (OTCMKTS:DLAKY): Deutsche Bank takes its fellow Teuton to Hold from Buy.

Progressive (NYSE:PGR): The insurance outfit famous for its irrepressibly perky spokesperson Flo is now Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays.

Randgold Resources (NASDAQ:GOLD): GOLD gets downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup.

Silver Standard (NASDAQ:SSRI): Shares are slashed to Sell from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK): Needham lowers its investment assessment on the recently-surging stock to Hold from Buy.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA): Finally a pothole for the cult electric car company, up an astonishing 561.87% in the past year having hit an historic high on Monday. This morning, Robert W. Baird reduces its rating to Neutral from Outperform. Valuation issues are understandably cited, along with execution risk, and shares are trading lower today as a result.

Unilever (NYSE:UN): The consumer products powerhouse whose ubiquitous brands include Ben & Jerry's and Lipton is trading lower in London today after being cut to Neutral from Buy at UBS, which says maybe "the market needs to revisit the growth algorithm" in emerging economies.

(See also: Stock Upgrades: Plain Sailing for Seagate and New Stock Coverage: Abercrombie, Out of Detention, Rejoins the 'Cool Kids.')
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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