Schaeffer's Trading Floor Blog

Analyst Downgrades: Google, Wal-Mart, and Merck

Analysts downwardly revised their ratings on GOOG, WMT, and MRK

by 2/4/2013 9:29 AM
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Analysts are weighing in today on search engine behemoth Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG - 775.60), broadline retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT - 70.49), and pharmaceutical concern Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK - 41.83). Here's a quick roundup of today's bearish brokerage notes.

  • GOOG -- which has advanced nearly 10% year-to-date, and bested the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by more than 7 percentage points during the last 60 sessions -- was cut to "market perform" from "outperform" at BMO this morning. However, most of the covering analysts maintain high expectations for the security. GOOG currently sports 21 "strong buys" and four "buy" recommendations, compared to five "holds," and not a single "sell" rating. Even so, Thomson Reuters shows an average 12-months price target of $825.13 for the stock, representing expected upside of just 6.4% to Friday's closing price of $775.60.

  • Although WMT sits on a year-over-year gain of roughly 14%, the stock was cut to "neutral" from "overweight," and saw its price target reduced to $75 from $84 at J.P. Morgan Securities today. Elsewhere, data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) shows a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.07 for WMT, confirming puts bought to open have slightly outstripped calls during the past two weeks. This ratio ranks higher than 63% of similar readings collected within the last 12 months, reflecting a healthier-than-usual appetite for puts versus calls lately.

  • Finally, MRK was hammered with bearish attention this morning after reporting a 7% decline in fourth-quarter earnings on Friday, and announcing it will delay submission of its highly anticipated osteoporosis drug, Odanacatib, for approval. The news was met with downgrades at Morgan Stanley (to "underweight" from "equal weight") and Leerink Swann (to "market perform" from "outperform"), while analysts at MKM Partners and BMO slashed their price targets. Meanwhile, MRK's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.39 hovers just 1 percentage point above a yearly nadir, indicating near-term traders have rarely been more call-heavy toward the stock during the past 52 weeks.

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