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 Ashland (NYSE:ASH) fell 3% this morning after the Jefferies Group downgraded the specialty chemical company from buy to hold.
So what: Along with the downgrade, analyst Laurence Alexander lowered his price target on the stock to $97 per share (from $104), representing about 10% worth of upside to yesterday's close. While activist investor Jana Partners continues to push Ashland's management to make significant value-boosting changes, Alexander believes there's just too much uncertainty at these levels to make the risk/reward ratio favorable.
Now what: Jefferies doesn't expect the fundamentals to improve anytime soon. "Investor confidence in the asset shuffling thesis may not withstand 2-3 more rounds of downward revisions to EPS and FCF forecasts for 2014E-2016E," Alexander cautioned. "Pension headwinds, incentive comp, Valvoline marketing expenses, sluggish end markets: in our view, it all adds up, and makes further multiple expansion more difficult." When you couple those headwinds with Ashland's still-heavy debt load, it's tough to argue with Jefferies' opinion that the stock looks risky.
Fool contributor Brian Pacampara has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.