U.S. stock markets are headed for a higher close to end the week after digesting mixed economic data. The preliminary September reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index dropped to 76.8 from 82.1 in August. That will be the lowest level since April if it doesn't improve in later updates.
The positive news, if you can call it that, came from retail, where August sales rose just 0.2%. However, July's figures were revised upward from 0.2% growth to 0.4% growth. Investors should cheer any growth, given the weak economy, but growth of less than 1% is less than inspiring. This is an important holiday season coming up, and it doesn't look like retailers should expect any windfalls this year.
The big mover today is Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) , which is up 3.6% after an analyst from Jefferies upgraded the stock from hold to buy and slapped a $30 price target on it. Moves based on analyst upgrades should be taken with a grain of salt, because analysts have little incentive to make correct buy and sell calls -- and statistically, they're usually wrong anyways.
In the case of Intel, this may be a time to take a look at the company's earnings and progress in mobile. Just this week, the company announced that Google, Toshiba, Asustek, and others will be making Chrome-based computers running on Intel chips. For Intel that's another step toward getting into Android smartphones, which dominate the smartphone business right now.
The bottom line is that analyst upgrades aren't in and of themselves a reason to buy a stock, but they can present an opportunity to re-evaluate your investment thesis. I, for one, think the Jefferies analyst is correct; Intel's 12.6 P/E ratio and 4% dividend yield are great reasons to buy the stock, given its upside in mobile.
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