Why Ralph Lauren Might Keep Plunging

While Fools should generally take the opinion of Wall Street with a grain of salt, it's not a bad idea to take a closer look at particularly stock-shaking upgrades and downgrades -- just in case their reasoning behind the call makes sense.

What: Shares of Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  ) slipped 1% today after Piper Jaffray downgraded the iconic apparel company from overweight to neutral.

So what: Along with the downgrade, analyst Erinn Murphy lowered her price target on the stock to $170 (from $200), representing just 6% worth of upside to yesterday's close. While Murphy remains positive on Ralph Lauren's growth prospects, she believes that the stock will continue to face near-term resistance amid weak consumer spending, and the start of a multiyear investment cycle.

Now what: Murphy doesn't expect the stock to do much over the next six to 12 months. Piper Jaffray noted:

[W]e view RL as a core holding for the longer-term oriented investor (2 yrs+) as we believe global growth initiatives in China, accessories & the prospects for accelerated sq-ftage (Polo stores in Europe) will create margin expansion opportunities over time. That said, in the absence of a compelling apparel spending environment and with a multi-year investment cycle under way, we believe earnings upside could be more limited.

Of course, when you consider how difficult it is to profitably dance in and out of stocks, investors who believe in those long-term tailwinds might want to pounce on Ralph Lauren's already depressed stock price. 

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