April 26, 2012
Earnings season brings on a flurry of upgrades and downgrades, and it can be an all-day affair just to get through them all. Today we look at an industrial automation company, a big beverage maker, a gas and oil company, and a hotel chain. Should you pay attention to Wall Street's call?
Reaction as of 1 p.m. EDT
|Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK )
||Upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight
|Dr Pepper Snapple (NYSE: DPS )
||Upgraded to Buy from Neutral
|Hess (NYSE: HES )
|Marriott (NYSE: MAR )
Source: Street Insider.
Morgan Stanley has upgraded Rockwell to Equal Weight from Underweight.
- Why? The company released mixed earnings yesterday, with revenue beating estimates but earnings per share falling short.
- Justified? Yes. By most measures, this company is growing steadily and shows no sign of a hurting company. Many analysts have a price target for Rockwell around $85 per share -- $8 over today's price. Yet earnings per share is not the end-all metric for measuring stock growth, as it is highly vulnerable to accounting tricks. Rockwell is growing organically, and that is the bottom line for this industrial automation company.
Dr Pepper Snapple
Davenport upgraded Dr Pepper Snapple to Buy from Neutral.
- Why? The beverage stock dropped 5% on mixed earnings news but still grew overall sales.
- Justified? No. While Wall Street does tend to overreact to short-term trends in businesses, the company is not exhibiting the healthiest condition. Compared with its peers, Dr Pepper is trading cheaply at less than 13 times forward earnings. But that does not negate the lackluster results. Revenue grew slightly, but shrinking margins and so-so net income should not earn this stock an upgrade.
Credit Suisse has downgraded Hess to Neutral from Outperform.
- Why? The company lowered guidance and looks to be focusing on remodeling and upgrading while oil prices remain very high.
- Justified? Yes. The oil business has changed slightly, with more transparent pricing practices resulting from consumer demand. This decreases the need for vertically integrated energy companies such as Hess. Instead of acknowledging this trend, Hess is reducing its activity in the shale segment and spending on capex. Investors may want to look at Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO ) , which trades at a similar P/E and wisely separated its businesses into oil exploration and marketing.
Argus upgraded Marriott from Hold to Buy.
- Why? Marriott has well diversified properties, a strong balance sheet, and a promising in-development pipeline.
- Justified? Yes. As any major hotel or casino should be doing, Marriott is expanding into Macau -- the island where money seems to grow on trees. The company may look expensive today at nearly 70 times earnings, but based on future growth and a champion line of brands, including Ritz Carlton, the stock has plenty of room to grow.
Ratings are often based on short-term prospects and not relevant to the long-term investor. However, we can use them to dig up useful facts about a company we may not have seen before. It's important not to let the ratings themselves color your opinion of a company. As Fools often say, it's better to do the research yourself and come to your own conclusions. Keep an eye on this series to stay in the know and save the rest of your day for coffee and Facebook.