Downgrades Hit the Dow Today

With a slim majority of its 30 components trading lower, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is just below breakeven, down a mere eight points to 14,534 as of 12:50 p.m. EDT. The other two major indexes are faring better: The S&P 500 has gained 0.23%, and the NASDAQ has risen 0.57%. One reason the Dow is trading lower is that a number of its components posted poor first-quarter earnings last week, and this week analysts are downgrading the shares.

General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) is down 2%. The decline likely owes in part to the poor earnings report the company just released last week, while the other driving force today is a downgrade from JPMorgan. The previous buy rating was reduced to neutral, and the firm's price target on shares of GE is now at $22. The reduced ratings are a direct result of GE's earnings release and comments that Europe will likely remain a soft spot.  

 Shares of McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) are down 0.9%. McDonald's also recently reported earnings, beating on the top line but missing on the bottom line. But management poured a little salt in their own wounds when they forecast disappointing results for April. And those comments have now caused analysts at Credit Suisse to lower their price target on McDonald's to $110 per share. The firm didn't change its "outperform" rating on the stock, but it did lower its earnings-per-share estimates. 

Another Dow component in analysts' spotlight this morning was UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH  ) , which is down 1.7%. UBS announced this morning that it was lowering its EPS estimates for the health insurer through 2014. The reason cited for the reduction was the sequestration. Analysts believe the cuts and spending reductions will likely put pressure on UnitedHealth's bottom line. 

More foolish insight
The financial crisis dealt GE a major blow, but management took advantage of the market's dip to make strategic bets in energy. If you're a GE investor, you need to understand how these bets could drive this company to become the world's infrastructure leader. At the same time, you need to be aware of the threats to GE's portfolio. To help, we're offering comprehensive coverage for investors in a premium report on General Electric, in which our industrials analyst breaks down GE's multiple businesses. You'll find reasons to buy or sell GE today. To get started, click here now.


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