KROGER SHARES DOWN GRADED

CINCINNATI -- Shares of Kroger Co. here slipped last Thursday after the company's stock was downgraded to "market performer" from "buy" by J.P. Morgan, New York, citing Kroger's decision to cancel participation in two investment conferences. Kroger issued a statement that day explaining that it would no longer participate in investor presentations, field trips and other investor meetings during its

CINCINNATI -- Shares of Kroger Co. here slipped last Thursday after the company's stock was downgraded to "market performer" from "buy" by J.P. Morgan, New York, citing Kroger's decision to cancel participation in two investment conferences. Kroger issued a statement that day explaining that it would no longer participate in investor presentations, field trips and other investor meetings during its "quiet periods," which extend from the day after the company's quarter ends until it reports results from that quarter.

Kroger's stock was off 5.54% for the day, closing at $18.42. Shares of several other supermarket companies also fell Thursday, including those of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., down 3.01%, to $25.75; Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, down 4.53%, to $25.94; and Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla., down 4.77%, to $16.18.

In his research note, J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen Chick said supermarkets were under pressure from alternative channels and that consumers are no longer devoted to traditional food retailers. He said the consolidation of the late 1990s masked the "true colors" of an industry that is struggling to drive growth.