Moody's Cuts J.P. Morgan Debt Rating

Merck affirms outlook; GE shares fall; plus more of today's stocks in the news

Moody's downgraded JP Morgan (JPM ) long term debt ratings to A1 from Aa3.

Lehman cut its fourth quarter and 2003 sales estimates on Motorola (MOT ).

American Electric Power (AEP ) dismissed five employees for providing inaccurate price information for use in published trade indices. S&P downgraded to avoid from hold.

Merrill cut its estimates Best Buy (BBY ) . CIBC World sees heightened risk to Best Buy's fourth quarter estimate.

Salomon Smith Barney reportedly cut its estimates and target on Caterpillar (CAT ) .

S&P says investors' concern over Ford Motor 's (F ) weakness in its bonds is pressuring the stock. S&P remains concerned about Ford's near-term competitive position, employee pension and retirement funding obligations. Ford is the largest U.S. corporate issuer, with more than $61 billion in outstanding bonds.

MSC.Software (MNS ) sees a $0.05-$0.07 third quarter loss from operations on $80 million to $82 million revenue, and will record a $6 million charge. AG Edwards downgraded to sell from hold.

USB Piper downgraded Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ) to outperform from strong buy.

Argosy Gaming (AGY ) sees lower than expected $0.63-$0.65 third quarter earnings per share; the casino operator believes earnings per share will remain in the mid-$0.60 range for fourth quarter and first quarter 2003. Prudential and Bear Stearns downgraded. CIBC World cut its estimates.

Abbott Labs (ABT ) posted $0.48 vs. $0.44 third quarter earnings per share from operations on 3.8% higher worldwide sales. Abbott posted $0.46 third quarter earnings per share (GAAP), and will cut the 3% global workforce and take a $100M-$125M fourth quarter charge, and sees $0.55-$0.57 fourth quarter earnings per share from operations.

Dole Food (DOL ) says West Coast port closures caused ship diversions to alternative ports in Mexico, resulting in increased shipping, labor costs, supply chain disruptions, and the inability to get products to some customers.

Morgan Stanley cut its estimate and price target on General Electric (GE ) to $27.

Quest Diagnostic (DGX ) sees better than expected $0.85-$0.87 third quarter earnings per share, and 17% revenue growth, citing favorable trends for both testing volume and revenue per requisition.

Johnson Controls (JCI ) sees 5%-10% fiscal 2003 sales growth. The company will begin expensing stock options in 2003, which will affect earnings per share by $0.05 in fiscal 2003; $0.11 in fiscal 2004; and $0.18 in fiscal 2005.

Suntrust Banks (STI ) posted $1.20 vs. $1.15 third quarter earnings per share on higher non-interest income, and says it now seems unlikely the company will see a meaningful reduction in nonperforming assets in the near future.

Sara Lee (SLE ) sees first quarter earnings per share of at least $0.35 vs. the consensus estimate of $0.28, and sees $1.54-$1.60 fiscal 2003 earnings per share.

Moody's raised its outlook for Lehman Brothers' (LEH ) long term debt to positive from stable.

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