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Earnings season brings on a fury of upgrades and downgrades, and it can be an all-day affair just to get through them all. Let's look at four stocks on which analysts have weighed in, and I'll add my own opinions on the moves.
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX )
Pacific Crest has upgraded Netflix to outperform, with a price target of $130.
Why? As anyone within a 10-mile radius of any financial news knows by now, Netflix shares are hurting. Even though the company surpassed analyst expectations, investors are running scared based on slower-than-expected growth prospects and the rising cost of content acquisitions.
Justified? Yes, although a price target of $130 is a little high given what we know about the future of the company. There needs to be some faith in management here. Reed Hastings and his team have built not just a business, but a new era of content management and delivery. Have there been hiccups? Yes. Will there be more? Yes. Wall Street overreacts when a high-growth company focuses on fundamental business development rather than analyst-friendly metrics. Hastings has a lot of work to do to tackle the rising costs of content acquisition, but based on his and the company's track record, I believe it can be done.
Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS )
JPMorgan raised Rambus to outperform, with a price target of $6.50.
Why? After worse-than-expected EPS results and downgrades, the company's stock took a big tumble Monday -- about 10%. JPMorgan clearly believes the company's strong balance sheet and long-term prospects outweigh the short-term results and negative market sentiment.
Justified? Yes. This company is particularly vulnerable to analyst opinions. Monday's downgrades sent the stock cascading down, only to make a nearly full recovery today after JPMorgan's upgrade. Rambus is trading near its 52-week low, but it still generates positive operating cash flow, with very manageable debt on the balance sheet.
Fortinet (Nasdaq: FTNT )
Nomura raised Fortinet to buy, with a price target of $32.
Why? The cyber-security company focuses on unified threat management, or UTM, one of the fastest-growing areas in network security. Nomura likes the increased market share as Fortinet establishes itself as a segment leader.
Justified? No. While revenue and cash flow have grown steadily over the last few years, you are paying 70 times earnings for the company. For that price, I want to see something more disruptive. On the bright side, current assets cover total liabilities, which lets investors know the company isn't overspending on the technology. Fortinet looks like a solid company with a good hold of the UTM market, but there needs to be more here. The market agrees, as the stock traded down more than 2% today despite the upgrade.
Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR )
Jeffries downgraded Clearwire to hold, with a $2 price target.
Why? Clearwire's spectrum, the valuable asset the company may sell, is suffering from Verizon and DISH Network's near-term bandwidth availability. What does all that jargon mean? The company may have a working-capital shortage.
Justified? Yes. This is a big deal for Clearwire. If it can't sell its spectrum, it's going to have a hard time funding the rest of the business. Even though Clearwire has an experienced management team, the company has had a rough ride as troubled technology and outside forces limit the performance potential. Clearwire closed the day down nearly 10%.
Keep an eye on this series to stay in the know, and save the rest of your day for coffee and Facebook.