Credit Suisse Changes Rating System Methodology… Market Crash Expected?

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Analyst calls often have many hidden gems in them, and sometimes the most interesting thing to take from these calls is what was not said. Credit Suisse came out this Tuesday with so many analyst calls that it was highly unusual. The move is due to a relative rating system rather than its past rating system using expected total return of a stock and also a relative attractiveness of the sector.

Credit Suisse noted, “Credit Suisse is changing its system for rating North American equities to one that ranks stocks under coverage in a common sector against each other—in other words, a relative system. In the United States and Canada, Credit Suisse had until today used a hybrid system that combined total absolute expected return of the stock price and the relative attractiveness of this return within each analyst’s universe.”

The report took much longer to put together because they were so voluminous. The firm did not say anything formal about a prediction of a market crash. Still, what do most investors think when they see more than 60 analyst downgrades in one morning?

Many of these went from Neutral down to a dreaded Underperform rating as well. These are just ten of the calls, but we tallied up roughly 65 downgrades. The change in methodology also applied to about 20 large Canadian companies.

Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) was cut from Neutral to Underperform with a $28.75 price target. It noted only, “The CS rating system has been revised such that ratings now reflect an expectation of relative out/(under) performance versus an analyst’s coverage universe, replacing a system in which ratings could also reflect an expectation of absolute performance.”

American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. (NYSE: AXL) was cut from Neutral to Underperform with a $13 price target with the explanation only going to a rating system change.

Boston Scientific Corp (NYSE: BSX) cut to Neutral from Outperform given the potential upside in BSX we believe a Neutral rating is more appropriate for the revised framework. We’re also lowering our DCF-derived BSX price target to $6.00 from $6.50 based on a slightly higher assumed weighted average cost of capital.

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) was cut from Neutral to Underperform with a $35 target using only the explanation of the rating system changing.

Con Edison (NYSE: ED) was cut from Neutral to Underperform with a $60 target with the explanation of the ratings system change.

Hess Corporation (NYSE: HES) was cut to Underperform from Neutral with a $60 target and only an explanation of the rating system change.

Medtronic Inc. (NYSE: MDT) to Neutral from Outperform given “the potential upside in MDT we believe a Neutral rating is more appropriate for the revised framework. We’re raising our DCF-derived MDT price target to $46 from $44 based on a slightly lower assumed weighted average cost of capital.”

Annaly Capital Management (NYSE: NLY) was cut to Neutral from Outperform and the target price is $17.00 with only an explanation of the rating system change.

Southern Company (NYSE: SO) was cut from Neutral to Underperform with a $49.00 price target and only the explanation of the rating system changing.

Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) was cut from Neutral to Underperform, and the price target was cut down to $15 from $18 with only the explanation of the rating system changing.

JON C. OGG