Analyst Crushes These 3 Airline Stocks

American, United, and Spirit Airlines stocks were downgraded to 'neutral'

Patrick Martin
Sep 15, 2017 at 10:14 AM
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Analysts are weighing in on airline stocks American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ:AAL)United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL), and Spirit Airlines Incorporated (NASDAQ:SAVE). J.P. Morgan Securities downgraded all three airline stocks over concerns about domestic airline pricing and fuel prices. Here's a quick roundup of today's bearish brokerage notes on shares of AAL, UAL, and SAVE.

Downgrade Grounds American Airlines Stock

American Airlines stock is down 1.4% to trade at $45.55, after J.P. Morgan Securities downgraded the airline name to "neutral" from "overweight," while also cutting its price target to $53 from $61. Earlier this week, the company lowered its current-quarter revenue per available seat mile (RASM) outlook. Since touching a two-year high of $54.48 in mid-July, AAL stock has pulled back 16%, but seems to have found support atop its 320-day moving average.

In the options pits, traders have bought to open puts over calls by a wider-than-usual margin. AAL sports a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.58 at the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), which ranks in the 79th percentile of its annual range. 

A Rough Quarter for United Continental

United Continental stock is down 2% to trade at $60.01, after J.P. Morgan Securities downgraded it to "neutral" from "overweight." UAL stock also received a price-target cut to $68 from $84. The new price target represents a 16% discount to the stock's average 12-month price target of $81.38. UAL stock has shed 27% since touching record high of $83.04 on June 2.

Despite United's fundamental and technical troubles lately, analyst sentiment remains bullishly skewed. Of the 15 brokerages covering UAL shares, eight rate them a "buy" or "strong buy," with not a single "sell" in sight. This means that there is still plenty of room aboard the bearish bandwagon. Further downgrades could push the stock even lower.

Spirit Airlines Not Spared From Downgrade Spree

Spirit Airlines stock is down 2.7% to trade at $33.89, after J.P. Morgan Securities downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "overweight," while also trimming its price target to $37 from $45. Last night, Spirit Airlines said it was too soon to assess the financial impact of Hurricane Irma on 2017 results, but "we do expect it to be significant." SAVE stock has had a tough year, shedding 43% since peaking above $60 in May, and touching a four-year low of $30.32 on Sept. 6. 

Shorts are betting on even steeper declines for SAVE stock. Short interest increased by a whopping 69% during the last two reporting periods, but accounts for only 7% of SAVE's total available float. This indicates that there is still plenty of room for short sellers to hop aboard the stock. 

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