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The major market indexes are lower at midday, as lingering Fed concerns and pre-holiday profit-taking overshadow solid domestic data. Among the equities in focus include blue chip The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), semiconductor concern Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE), and clothing company The Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS), which have all attracted the attention of analysts.
- PG is dominating headlines today, as investors applaud the replacement of CEO Robert McDonald with retired CEO A.G. Lafley. Analysts at UBS are also cheering the news, upgrading Procter & Gamble to "buy" from "neutral" and lifting their price target to $95 from $75. Meanwhile, an unwinding of pessimism in the options pits could usher PG even higher. The equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 1.49 ranks in the 76th percentile of its annual range, suggesting short-term options traders are more put-heavy than usual right now. At last check, PG has added 4.1% to wink at $81.89.
- Moving on, Piper Jaffray increased its price target on CREE to $70 from $60. There could be more where that came from, too. Although Cree has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by 23 percentage points during the past three months, half the covering analysts maintain "hold" or worse opinions. Plus, the consensus 12-month price target of $55.15 represents a discount to the stock's current price of $59.03. Should more brokerage firms change their bearish tune, additional price-target hikes or upgrades could pressure CREE even higher on the charts.
- Finally, analysts continue to reward GPS' stronger-than-expected earnings, which hit the Street yesterday. Specifically, Janney lifted its price target by $3 to $47, while RBC, UBS, and Canaccord Genuity all increased their respective price targets to either $41 or $42. Nevertheless, The Gap is down 2.8% at $40.22, falling in sympathy with the broader equities market. As such, the security is on pace to end south of its 10-day moving average for the first time in a month.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) is down 31 points, or 0.2%, to 15,263.32, as investors continue to fret over whether the Fed will reduce its economic stimulus measures. Meanwhile, some well-received senior management news from blue-chip component The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) has pushed the stock nearly 4% higher so far today, making it one of the elite Dow members in the black. On the economic front, the Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose by a larger-than-expected 3.3% in April to a seasonally adjusted $222.6 billion.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 11 options exchanges is docked at 1.18, with 3.7 million puts crossing the tape so far today, versus 3.1 million calls.
- Among the equities with put-skewed activity is Foot Locker, Inc. (NYSE:FL), which has dropped around 6.8% on the heels of this morning's poorly received quarterly earnings report. Currently, puts represent 73.7% of the athletic shoe retailer's intraday option volume. At last check, FL was trading at $33.24.
- The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shows an advance/decline ratio of 0.40, with the number of downward movers more than doubling the advancers.
- Among the NYSE's major decliners is Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF), which has shed about 10% in intraday action, after falling short of consensus bottom-line estimates and reducing its full-year outlook in pre-market trading. ANF is presently trading at $48.93.
- Optimism surged during the week ended May 22, according to the latest survey by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII). The percentage of investors with a bullish view on stocks jumped to 49.0% from 38.5%, while the percentage bearish fell to 21.6% from 29.3%. Meanwhile, the percentage neutral slipped to 29.4% from 32.2%.
- The CBOE Market Volatility Index (INDEXCBOE:VIX) is 0.4 point, or 2.9%, higher, to hover at 14.48.
- The put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX) -- which is currently perched at 18.80 -- stands at 1.17, with puts outpacing calls.
View a real-time chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average 2 Minute (INDEXDJX:.DJI).
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Analysts are weighing in today on cloud computing firm Salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM), tech concern Cirrus Logic, Inc. (NASDAQ:CRUS), and agricultural and construction equipment retailer Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN). Here's a quick roundup of today's bearish brokerage notes.
- CRM -- which sports a 52-week gain of about 25% to trade at $45.69 -- was downgraded to "neutral" from "outperform" at Wedbush Securities this morning, where analysts also lowered their price target for the stock to $42 from $51. The adjustment comes on the heels of yesterday's poorly received quarterly earnings and guidance. However, the short-term options crowd has been upbeat toward Salesforce.com, inc. The equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) sits at 0.78, with calls outstripping puts among options expiring in the next three months. This ratio hovers just 1 percentage point above a yearly nadir, confirming near-term traders have rarely been more bullishly aligned toward CRM during the past year.
- Down roughly 39% in 2013, CRUS received a price-target cut to $18 from $25 at Canaccord Genuity today, after the firm warned of weaker margins yesterday. The analysts also downgraded the shares to "hold" from "buy." Nevertheless, the sentiment scales among the brokerage bunch remain bullishly tipped toward Cirrus Logic, Inc. The stock boasts six "strong buy" endorsements, compared to two "holds" and zero "sell" suggestions. What's more, the security's average 12-month price target of $26.17 reflects expected upside of about 47.4% to Thursday's closing price of $17.76. This leaves plenty of room for further downgrades and/or price-target cuts, which could exacerbate the stock's technical woes.
- TITN was lowered to "neutral" from "outperform" at R.W. Baird in pre-market action, after its preliminary quarterly earnings results and full-year guidance fell short of analysts' projections on Thursday. The equity has shed about 28% on a year-over-year basis and is priced at $22.50, yet call buyers remain undaunted. Data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows a 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.26 for Titan Machinery Inc., signaling calls bought to open have more than doubled puts during the past two weeks. However, the stock isn't completely free of bearish speculation, as short interest makes up roughly 28% of TITN's available float.
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Analysts are weighing in today on Internet radio issue Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P), semiconductor name Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (NASDAQ:MRVL), and video game retailer GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME). Here's a quick roundup of today's bullish brokerage notes.
- Up a whopping 87% year-to-date to trade at $17.16, P was flooded with positive attention this morning, after the company raised its full-year guidance yesterday. RBC upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "sector perform," and lifted its price target to $24 from $16, while Canaccord Genuity, BMO, Stifel Nicolaus, and Raymond James also upped their price targets. Meanwhile, the equity's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.28 is just 6 percentage points above a yearly nadir, indicating near-term options players have rarely been more call-heavy toward Pandora Media Inc during the past 12 months.
- MRVL -- which has gained nearly 56% in 2013 and is priced at $11.31 -- was also in the bullish spotlight today, after reporting better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday. Needham Research boosted its price target to $15 from $12, while brokerage firms including RBC, Credit Suisse, Canaccord Genuity, and Mizuho followed suit. (JMP Securities, however, downgraded the stock to "underperform" from "market perform.") Elsewhere, the stock's 50-day International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) put/call volume ratio of 0.60 ranks higher than 86% of similar annual readings, meaning traders have been picking up Marvell Technology Group Ltd. puts over calls at a faster-than-usual pace.
- GME scored a price-target hike to $34 from $30 at BMO ahead of the opening bell, thanks to yesterday's stronger-than-anticipated first-quarter earnings report. The stock has surged almost 88% during the past year to explore the $36.01 neighborhood, yet bearish speculation remains alive and well on GameStop Corp. In fact, short interest currently accounts for a hefty 34% of the equity's available float -- or the equivalent of more than 12 sessions' worth of pent-up buying demand, at GME's average daily trading volume. From a contrarian perspective, the security could end up reaping the benefits of a short-covering rally down the road.
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U.S. stock futures are lower ahead of the opening bell, and without a rally today, indexes will close the week in negative territory. In company news, meanwhile, a few more notable earnings releases hit the Street, and Hulu has become the most popular kid on the block .
- Bob McDonald is out as chairman and CEO at The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), effective immediately. In is A.G. Lafley, who will assume both posts, after serving solely as CEO from 2000 to 2009. The move comes after a round of criticism lobbed against McDonald, which was led by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, a major stakeholder in PG. (CNNMoney)
- Despite rising expenses and lackluster margins, Salesforce.com, inc. (NYSE:CRM) managed to notch in-line adjusted earnings for its fiscal first quarter, at 10 cents per share, excluding items. The company's overall revenue came in at $892.6 million, as well, which is a 28% improvement over the first quarter of 2012. For the second quarter, CRM expects to earn 11 to 12 cents per share, roughly in line with analysts' expectations. This may have been a disappointment on the Street, as the shares are headed lower in pre-market trading. (FOX Business)
- Hulu, LLC is up for grabs, and plenty of suitors are lining up for the streaming online content provider. Four bids have already come in, including those from News Corp's (NASDAQ:NWSA) ex-president Peter Chernin, Guggenheim Digital Media, DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV), and Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC). (Chicago Tribune)
- DISH Network Corp (NASDAQ:DISH) is firming up a deal to acquire Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S). The satellite TV name has secured commitment letters collectively valued at $9 billion from five banks, in addition to the $2.6 billion it raised last week selling bonds. DISH is trying to reach $25.5 billion in committed financing in order to compete against a rival offer from Japan's SoftBank Corp. (The Wall Street Journal; login required)
- Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is the latest tech giant to reportedly show interest in acquiring the social sat-nav smartphone app Waze, which is seeking more than $1 billion for its purchase. However, this is currently just a rumor, and both Google and Waze refused to comment on the matter. (Tech Crunch)
- Pandora Media Inc's (NYSE:P) earnings (excluding items) -- which showed a loss of 10 cents per share -- met analysts' consensus right on the dot, while its revenue of $128.5 million exceeded their forecast. The internet-radio service attributes the good news to its accumulation of new subscribers and increase in mobile advertising. (CNBC)
- Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) disclosed a larger-than-expected earnings loss of $1.29 per share, excluding items, and revenue of $8.45 billion. To compensate for its ongoing decline in sales, the department-store chain also reported that it is considering selling its protection-agreement business, the business section that sells customer service contracts and time-sensitive product warranties. (NBC News)
- McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) Japan is offering a new menu item called "Mega Potato" french fries, which combines two large-sized fries in one giant container, until late June. The offering is the most caloric dish to ever be served at the global fast-food chain. (Huffington Post)