The week ending on Friday, November 13, 2020, was riddled with surprises. The election being contested and the surging COVID-19 cases hardly seemed to matter to the financial markets. The earnings-reporting season has more or less come to a close, but the major companies have tended to look better after earnings than was expected heading into the season. And news of a 90%-plus success rate in a COVID-19 vaccine program has created a lot of excitement that the economy can return to normal in 2021.
24/7 Wall St. has been looking beyond the election noise, beyond the choppy economic reports and even beyond the rapid rise of coronavirus cases. There is a lot of faith that has to be held to take that view at the current time, but that is what professionals are supposed to try to get right.
Our daily coverage of analyst upgrades and downgrades ends up with a tally of hundreds of analyst calls evaluated each week. Some are stocks to buy and others are stocks to sell. Investors should never just blindly follow an analyst call as the sole reason to buy or sell a stock. That said, what happens when you see a slew of analysts jump on stocks or when they keep following a trend?
The week of October 13 brought a focus on five of 30 Dow Jones industrial average stocks. Some excitement finally may be headed to some, and the upside for others may now continue. Again, that’s assuming the analysts are right. Analysts are sometimes just like the rest of the investing community in that their timing is off or they just simply misread the situation.
Here are five Dow stocks that received handy upgrades, based on catalysts, which investors might want to pay close attention to. Consensus analyst prices and estimates are from Refinitiv.
Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) had been down 1.7% at $38.67 ahead of Thursday’s earnings report, but its shares traded up almost 7% at $41.30 late on Friday. While Cisco did beat earnings and managed to keep guidance firm, the big side of the news is that it was talking up the tech spending environment. Cisco had a $46.93 consensus target price ahead of its report.
While the firm noted that weakness persists, security was deemed to be a bright spot, and the firm also pointed out that Cisco’s orders trends had stabilized and the backlog was strong. The firm’s Buy rating also talked up Cisco’s upcoming product cycles driving growth and cited a very reasonable valuation when many tech valuations are sky high. Credit Suisse maintained its Neutral rating on Cisco, but the firm still boosted its target to $41 from $36.
Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) was raised to Buy from Accumulate with a $315 target price (versus a $277.75 prior close) at Gordon Haskett on October 12. Home Depot had a $303.87 consensus price target at the time. Before thinking this was just a positive sector call, note that it was not. Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) was downgraded to Accumulate from Buy at Gordon Haskett. One issue driving the report was that Home Depot shares had fallen from about $284 last Friday down to about $270 on Monday.
The coronavirus has kept people at home, and that has driven the home improvement space into a euphoric business of late. The coronavirus vaccine might curb that, but a vaccine and the impact is still months away from keeping people from getting sick. What happens if another lockdown, which has been reported as a possibility, comes about? More projects to do at home, and Home Depot is absolutely an essential business.
Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) was started with an Outperform rating and a $145 price target at RBC Capital Markets on October 12. The stock has closed at $127.66 ahead of that call, but after Thursday’s selling pressure, Nike was back above $128 late on Friday.
RBC’s call specified that Nike is the best-in-class in the athleisure category as a global athletic play. The firm expects that Nike will see a faster recovery from all of the COVID-19 disruptions. Its consensus target is right in line at $145.08.
Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) saw an unusual wave of analyst calls this past week. What is unusual is that Walmart is set to report earnings on November 17, and many analysts prefer to react to earnings rather than jumping into the fire ahead of time. Walmart has been a COVID-19 winner, but the retail giant has warned that it noticed some slowing trends after the government did not pass a second stimulus bill in August.
Walmart was at $145.77 a share the prior Friday, and it fell to $143.54 on Monday when news of the vaccine was out. Interestingly enough, the short-lived sell-off was looking for a fourth day in a row of gains, if the 40-cent gain to $148.63 held on Friday. Deutsche Bank raised its target price to $163 from $144, KeyBanc Capital Markets raised its target to $155 from $150 and Jefferies raised its target to $170 from $165. Walmart trades very close to its $148.92 consensus target price.
Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) was down almost 1.7% at $135.52 ahead of its earnings report, but its stock traded up as much as 5% afterward, and it was still holding gains of about 1.9% at $138.15 late on Friday. Disney managed to beat expectations, with a narrower loss and slightly less of a hit to revenues.
Unfortunately, every aspect of its old business has been clobbered by the COVID-19 impact. That should say “except for its Disney+” streaming operations. Disney now has more than 73 million paying subscribers, it has plenty of room to raise prices down the road, and it can use that platform to release direct to the consumer if it wants to while still charging ticket prices.
Multiple analysts came out with higher price targets as the worst seems to be behind it, even if Disneyland remains shut. Morgan Stanley reiterated Disney as Overweight and raised its target to $160 from $135 ahead of the earnings report. Afterward, RBC Capital Markets upgraded it to Outperform with a $170 target price on Friday. And also on Friday, BofA Securities reiterated its Buy rating and raised its price objective to $166 from $146. Credit Suisse maintained its Outperform rating with the same $146 target price.
Again, one analyst call alone should never be a reason to chase stocks up or to bail out when the market is close to its highs. There were just many convictions behind some of the calls, and catalysts driving analyst calls tend to be more useful than routine housekeeping, where price targets are upgraded or lowered just because of an underlying stock price move.