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 Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) slipped this morning after Wells Fargo downgraded the electricity provider from outperform to market perform.
So what: Along with the downgrade, analyst Neil Kalton lowered his price target to $43-$44 (from $44-$45), representing about 5% worth of upside to yesterday's close. While contrarian investors might be attracted the stock's steep decline over the past six months, Kalton believes that Southern's risk/reward trade-off remains unattractive given its valuation relative to peers.
Now what: Wells lowered its earnings-per-share estimate for Southern to $2.67 from $2.75 in 2013, to $2.83 from $2.88 in 2014, and to $2.93 from $3.03 in 2015. "Our Market Perform rating reflects valuation considerations given a higher than historical risk profile and industry average EPS growth outlook," noted Wells. "Shares of SO trade roughly in-line with Regulated Electric peers on our new 15E EPS and we believe a roughly in-line valuation is warranted until SO's risk profile decreases and/or the EPS growth rate accelerates." Of course, with Southern shares now boasting a dividend yield of nearly 5%, investors with some patience will be getting paid nicely to wait on that growth.
Fool contributor Brian Pacampara has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Southern Company. 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.