Stocks quoted in this article:
U.S. stocks are notably higher this afternoon, as Wall Street applauds encouraging housing data and a relatively tame inflation report. Meanwhile, among the equities in focus are home health care provider Almost Family Inc (NASDAQ:AFAM), discount retailer Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE:FDO), and smartphone game maker China Mobile Games & Entertainment Group Ltd (NASDAQ:CMGE), which have all attracted analyst attention.
- AFAM is flirting with a 3% lead at $27.78, after Jefferies upgraded the stock to "buy" from "hold," and hiked its price target by $10 to $33. In addition, the brokerage firm said likely M&A activity could bolster estimated per-share 2015 earnings by 50%. Bullish analyst attention is relatively rare for AFAM, with just one out of six brokerage firms doling out a "strong buy." Sentiment isn't much better outside of the analyst arena, as short interest represents six sessions' worth of pent-up buying demand, at Almost Family Inc's average pace of trading. The stock has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 23 percentage points during the past two months. Should AFAM extend its uptrend, a short-squeeze situation or more upgrades could add fuel to the equity's fire.
- FDO is fractionally lower at $79.77, after earlier notching a fresh record peak of $80.10. Activist investor Carl Icahn last night critiqued FDO for "wasting more than $300 million" in breakup fees to Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ:DLTR), and said had he not fended off CEO Howard Levine's attempts to "neutralize" him, FDO may not have received a competing bid from Dollar General Corp (NYSE:DG). The board drama, as well as little motivation for the stock to go beyond DG's offer of $78.50, has kept Family Dollar Stores, Inc. shares in check today, despite an upgrade to "equal weight" from "underweight" and a price-target hike to $82 from $50 at Barclays.
- Finally, CMGE is down 1.5% at $14.97 -- erasing yesterday's post-earnings gains -- after Barclays cut its price target to $31 from $34. The shares of China Mobile Games & Entertainment Group Ltd have surrendered more than 40% in 2014, and more negative analyst notes could be on the way. All three brokerage firms following CMGE consider the stock a "buy," and the consensus 12-month price target of $28.33 represents expected upside of nearly 100% from the security's current perch.