Downgrades

6/16/2014


Cognizant Technology ($48; CTSH) and Helmerich & Payne ($112; HP) are being dropped from the Focus List, though both stocks remain on the Buy List and Long-Term Buy List. Both have attractive 12-month and three-year potential. But, partly because of middling valuations, neither ranks among our very top picks for year-ahead returns.


Express Scripts ($72; ESRX) is being dropped from the Buy and Long-Term Buy lists, partly because its Overall Quadrix score has dropped to 61. The stock earns below-average scores for Momentum, Earnings Estimates, and Performance. A disappointing first-quarter report triggered a one-day decline of 6% and a flurry of profit-estimate revisions. Now fully recovered from that sell-off, Express Scripts still seems cheap at 15 times the new 2014 consensus profit estimate. But we have lost some confidence in the company's ability to meet expectations, and cash flow has stagnated in recent quarters. Express Scripts now receives a grade of B (average) on our Monitored List.


Raymond James Financial ($50; RJF) is being dropped from the Buy List, Long-Term Buy List, and Monitored List. The stock's Overall Quadrix score has dropped to 72, with below-average marks for Momentum, Earnings Estimates, and Performance. The Value score remains quite attractive at 89, but weakness in fixed-income trading could lead to more earnings disappointments. Excluding one-time items, per-share earnings were about 6% below consensus expectations for the March quarter, leading to estimate cuts for the June and September quarters.


Aflac ($63; AFL), which has rallied to the high end of a three-month trading range, is being dropped from the Long-Term Buy List. While the insurer's discount valuation was a primary reason it was on the list — and the stock remains quite cheap, with a Value score of 96 — the company's loss of operating momentum is worrisome. Sales of new policies in Japan, Aflac's main source of revenue and profits, dropped sharply in the March quarter. New sales were also down in the U.S., and year-to-year sales and profit comparisons are expected to turn negative in the June quarter. Aflac now receives a grade of B on our Monitored List.


Rank Changes

We are making 12 rank changes in this issue. To accommodate these changes, described on in Midyear Outlook and in the text above, we are slightly reducing the target weights of three stocks on our Buy List. For now, B/E Aerospace ($94; BEAV), Quanta Services ($35; PWR), and Qualcomm ($79; QCOM) will get 2.7% weightings on our Buy List, below our typical weight of 3%. Vanguard Short-Term Corporate Bond ($80; VCSH) now accounts for 0.4% of the Buy List and 3.7% of the Long-Term Buy List.


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