Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) credit rating was downgraded from the top "AAA" rating too "AA+" by Fitch, saying "AAA" ratings are not appropriate for financial-oriented companies in the current economy. Its senior unsecured debt rating it cut to AA from AAA. The agency also has concerns about equity and derivative investments and Buffett's tight control of the company.

Time Warner's (TWX) AOL named Google executive Tim Armstrong as its new CEO. Armstrong will also act as chairman. According to the AP, "This shakeup could mean a spin-off of AOL is more likely. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has said he's open to a merger or sale of AOL, and in a statement Bewkes said Armstrong would be 'helpful in helping Time Warner determine the optimal structure for AOL.'" AOL is DailyFinance's parent. TWX shares are up 2 percent in premarket trade.

Some analyst calls:

  • Wal-Mart (WMT) was removed from Goldman Sachs conviction buy list. WMT shares are somewhat lower in premarket trade.
  • Alcatel Lucent (ALU) was upgraded by Robert W. Baird from Neutral to Outperform. Bank of America upgrades of also upgraded ALU from Underperform to Neutral. ALU shares are gaining over 11 percent in premarket trade.
  • Palm (PALM) was upgraded at Bernstein from Sector Perform to Outperform. PALM shares are up 6 percent in premarket trade.
  • Merck (MRK) was upgraded by RBC Capital Markets from Market Perform to Outperform. MRK shares are up 1.8 percent in premarket trade.
  • McDonald's (MCD) was initiated by Robert W. Baird with Outperform.

Aeropostale (ARO) reported its fourth-quarter net income rose to $68.2 million, or $1.01 a share, beating estimates by a penny, and that revenue increased to $690 million. The company gave first-quarter outlook below estimates. ARO shares are down 4.5 percent in premarket trade.

Toyota Motor (TM) is planning the development of a new, more affordable hybrid car that will sell for around 20 percent to 30 percent less than the automaker's current hybrid offering, the Prius.

Bank of America (BAC) CEO said Thursday the largest U.S. bank was profitable in January and February and should be able to ride out the recession without new help from the government. BAC shares seem like they'll have another day of gains, up around 5 percent in premarket trade.

Goldman Sachs Group (GS) changed the way it gives employee stock awards, or bonuses, last year, reducing fourth-quarter bonus expenses by an estimated $1 billion as Congress scrutinized Wall Street pay.


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