Why Nabors Industries Ltd. Shares Could Pop 20%

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

What: Shares of Nabors Industries  (NYSE: NBR  ) gained about 1% in premarket trading Thursday after Jefferies upgraded the drilling services specialist from hold to buy.

So what: Along with the upgrade, analyst Brad Handler raised his price target to $31 (from $28), representing about 22% worth of upside from yesterday's close. So while contrarian traders might be turned off by Nabors' year-to-date price strength, Handler's call could reflect a sense on Wall Street that industry tailwinds give the stock plenty of room to run.

Now what: Jefferies raised its 2014 EPS for Nabors from $1.15 to $1.20 and its 2015 view to a Street-high $2.50. "A combination of worldwide rig opportunity, recent quarters' drilling performance and catalyst in the form of strategic review announcement drives our upgrade of NBR to Buy from Hold despite strong YTD share performance that we think reflects market optimism vs. corporate change (shares are up 49% YTD vs. land peers' up 29% but are flat from late March)," said Handler. Given Nabors' still-hefty debt load and highly volatile stock (beta above 3), however, I'd hold out for a wider margin of safety before buying into that bullishness.

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