- Hyatt Hotels (H) and Hospitality Properties (HPT) to outperform from neutral at RW Baird.
- AB InBev (BUD) to buy from neutral at Goldman.
- Amerisafe (AMSF) to buy from hold at Wunderlich.
- Northrop Grumman (NOC) to sector perform from underperform at RBC Capital.
- China Lodging Group (HTHT) to buy from hold at Brean Murray and to buy from neutral at Roth Capital.
On Wednesday March 2, this investor threw in his two cents worth (see:Serious Money: What Should Warren Buffett Do Next?) discussing possible acquisitions. Since all the "pro's", I use the term loosely, have had a say I thought I would give readers a chance to express some of their ideas too.
This company has been on my recommended list for longer than any other company in the four and a half years that I have been writing for BloggingStocks -- with only one exception, Intuitive Surgical (ISRG). The company is EZCorp (EZPW), which beat the Street again with third quarter earnings per share of $0.56, three cents better than the analyst estimate.
Revenue for the quarter was $198.2 million, which tops the estimate of $191.01 million. The company projects 2011 earnings higher too: EPS of about $2.35 vs. an estimate of $2.25. EZCorp grew earnings by 33% and increased its footprint by 127 stores through new construction and acquisitions.
Every time a CEO utters the word challenging you can hear the stampede of investors to the exit. You would think that corporate management would have learned to use some other word to describe the the times ahead.
Many a CEO has unwittingly cost his company billions in stock value while speaking at an earnings conference by stating that the business outlook was going to be challenging. If they put the word very in front of the word challenging, then still more value will be lost, at least in the short run.
- FBR Capital upgraded Franklin Resources (BEN) to outperform from market perform and raised its target price for shares to $127 from $105 to reflect its belief the company is well positioned in the current environment.
- UBS upgraded Nuance (NUAN) to buy from neutral and has an $18 price target on the stock. The firm upgraded shares based on valuation and believes the company could be an acquisition target.
- Morgan Stanley upgraded DryShips (DRYS) to equal weight from underweight and has a $5.50 target on the stock. The firm cites the firmer ultra-deepwater drilling market for the upgrade.
- Becton Dickinson (BDX) was upgraded to neutral from sell at Goldman.
- Edwards Lifesciences (EW) was upgraded to market perform at Rodman & Renshaw.
- Arkansas Best (ABFS) was upgraded to neutral from underperform at BofA/Merrill.
- Soleil upgraded Community Health (CYH) to buy from hold based on expectations for improved 2011 demand. The firm has a $40 price target on the stock.
- Wunderlich upgraded Invesco Mortgage (IVR) to buy from hold following the company's better-than-expected Q3 dividend. The firm also raised its target price for shares to $23.50 from $21.50.
- Goldman upgraded SuccessFactors (SFSF) to conviction buy from buy, citing cloud exposure.
- Vulcan Materials (VMC) was upgraded to buy from hold at Jefferies.
- Comstock Resources (CRK) was upgraded to buy from neutral at Ladenburg.
- Trimble Navigation (TRMB) was upgraded to buy from hold at Canaccord.
- Baird upgraded Oshkosh (OSK) to outperform from neutral, citing valuation as it believes post-Iraq U.S. military spending concerns are overdone. The firm keeps a $42 price target for shares.
- Goldman transferred coverage on CenturyTel (CTL) with a buy from a neutral and has a $42 price target on the stock. The firm believes CenturyTel could increase buybacks and or increase its dividend given free cash generation and low payout ratio.
- Lazard Capital upgraded Hatteras Financial (HTS) to buy from hold to reflect increased dividend projections. The firm has a $30 price target for shares.
- EOG Resources (EOG) was upgraded to neutral from underperform at Credit Suisse.
- Donaldson (DCI) was upgraded to neutral from underperform at BofA/Merrill.
I have always felt that for all the blabbing we do -- or blogging, in my case -- we should try as best we can to be accountable for our good and bad calls. This report is long overdue, but I will post it anyway since all of my past year's picks and results have been made public.
The market was very harsh in the early part of 2009, filling investors fear and trepidation, and sinking to a March 9, 2009 bottom. Perhaps some of the bleeding has stopped, but the economy has not healed as bears and bulls seem to carry the day, or every other day.
You win some you lose some. This story is about one of my less successful investments, which I acquired and sold many years ago. Over the past four years, I have written many times about Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), by far my best stock investment, up 4,500%, give or take, over a ten-year period. I bought in at the bottom and held on for the ride, until last year when the market tanked and took Intuitive Surgical with it.
The stock has been on quite a roller coaster ride over the past two years, rising as high as $360, then plummeting to around $86 a share. This spring it reached a new high of $393.92 on spectacular earnings and investor euphoria. That was ridiculous, but in the short run you cannot predict what the market will do.
Now, with economic concerns building, an investor lawsuit pending, and perhaps a dose of reality seeping into the stock price, it has taken another dramatic turn downward again. It closed Tuesday at $269.12, a 32% fall from its high.
- Wells Fargo believes Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) da Vinci procedures remain under penetrated and that consensus estimates are too low. The firm upgraded shares to outperform from market perform and raised its valuation range to $340 to $360.
- Cantor Fitzgerald upgraded Westamerica (WABC) to buy from hold due to the company's FDIC-assisted acquisition of Sonoma Bank and what the firm sees as Westamerica's defensive nature. The firm set a $62 target on the stock.
- Oppenheimer upgraded Corning (GLW) to outperform from perform based on valuation and the belief that downward revisions have peaked. The firm has a $20 target on the stock.
- Quality Systems (QSII) was upgraded to outperform from market perform at JMP Securities.
- OpenTable (OPEN) and Windstream (WIN) were upgraded to buy from neutral at BofA/Merrill.
The metrics are so strong I can't imagine why the company has not made the front page of every investment journal -- but it hasn't. EZCORP has a market-beating P/E of 10.75 (forward 8.55) and very little debt. It's earning a ROE of 19.55%, ROA of 18.75%, and a ROIC of 19.18%. Is there something evil going on here I that I've missed?
EZCORP was an easy pick for me in late December 2009 when it was trading at $14.46. It is one of my two repeat picks for 2010, trading at the time of that writing at $17.35 after a 20% gain. Friday's close of $23.31 adds another 34.35%, and I do not see anything getting in the way of further growth for the next ten years.
Here are the glowing words of Chief Executive Officer, Joe Rotunda, stated, "This was another outstanding quarter for EZCORP, our 31st consecutive quarter of year over year earnings growth, and clearly demonstrates our ability to consistently enhance earnings and shareholder value. Coupled with this strong financial performance is our expanding worldwide presence, as seen through our continued store growth in Mexico and Canada, as well as our strategic affiliations with Albemarle & Bond in the United Kingdom and Cash Converters in Australia."
Calm down, Boy Wonder, I bought their stock as soon as I realized they could scale towering stock charts faster then we could scale a jungle gym.
Tomorrow at 3:00 PM EST, Intuitive will be reporting its earnings and this event is packed with more excitement than just about any company in the world, including Apple Inc (AAPL), because its da Vinci robotic surgical system actually rules the world; or at least the world of modern surgical wards. It has no competition, and has been growing by leaps and bounds for over decade.
This is a noble task and Obama has energized a national discussion that has led to Senate and House Democrats navigating treacherous straits to piece together recently signed legislation.