Why Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation Shares Slipped

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 analyst upgrades and downgrades -- just in case their reasoning behind the call makes sense.

What: Shares of Cabot Oil & Gas  (NYSE: COG  ) slipped about 2% this morning after Morgan Stanley downgraded the company from overweight to equal-weight.

So what: Along with the downgrade, analyst Drew Venker lowered his price target to $38 (from $45), representing about 8% worth of upside to yesterday's close. So while contrarian traders might be turned off by Cabot's price decline over the past month, Venker's call could reflect a sense on Wall Street that the company's growth prospects are just too uncertain to trigger a significant rebound.

Now what: According to Morgan, Cabot's risk/reward trade-off is pretty balanced at this point. "Due to the uncertainty of COG's differentials and growth, we believe investors will remain on the sidelines until major infrastructure expansions are in sight," said Venker. "Downgrading to EW and lowering PT to $38 to reflect wider gas differentials LT, reflective of a more bearish scenario through 2016." When you couple those operating challenges with Cabot's still-hefty debt load, holding out for a wider margin of safety certainly seems prudent. 

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