6 Solid Blue Chip Analyst Downgrades Too Big to Ignore

Print Email

It seems hard to imagine, but the week of July 8 effectively took the Dow Jones Industrial Average back to flat from the major news sell-off after the unexpected Brexit outcome from two weeks earlier. Not everyone is in agreement that the markets should be trading where they are. Still, that’s what makes a market.

24/7 Wall St. tracks many analyst upgrades and downgrades each day of the week. This ends up being hundreds of analyst calls per week. Investors hear over and over about when to buy stocks, but they are often a bit confused about when to sell a stock. After all, you hear “buy and hold forever” from many of the old-guard money managers all the time. This is why investors need to listen up: some analysts are telling investors and clients to sell shares or to perhaps lighten up.

The week of July 8 brought several key analyst downgrades in blue chip stocks. These are not all Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks, but most are or have been.

Investors have to understand that there is no assurance at all that this is a sign the bull market is dead. There is also no assurance that this marks the top for the market nor for these stocks. In fact, you will notice that some of these official rating downgrades come with upgrades on the price targets.

Investors are chasing yields handily at this time. Some analysts and investors are getting worried that the yield-chase has gone too far now. Here are six solid dividend paying stocks that faced key analyst downgrades in the week of July 8.

American Water Works

Though American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) is one of the 24/7 Wall St. 10 stocks to own for the decade, there is a problem brewing with its valuation. The water utility giant was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Merrill Lynch on July 6 based on strong outperformance, although the firm raised its price objective to $88 from $80. The firm admits that American Water still sits at the nexus of defensive yet strong growth.

American Water shares had previously closed at $84.76, and the shares were trading at $83.36 on Friday’s close. Its consensus price target is much lower at $72.54, and its 52-week trading range is $50.01 to $85.24. Multiple analyst downgrades have been made of late, based on valuation and the water premium getting too high.

AT&T and Verizon

Both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) were both downgraded at Citigroup on July 7, to Neutral from Buy. The report was nearly identical for the logic on the 4% or so dividend yields on both companies, with downgrades on the ratings and upgrades to the price targets. AT&T’s price target was raised to $46 from $42, and Verizon’s target was raised to $58 from $53. The Thomson First Call consensus analyst price targets are $39.79 for AT&T and $52.52 for Verizon, both of which are lower than the current share prices of these telecom giants.

This sums it up from Citi’s comments:

Our lowered rating contemplates the investor demand for dividend yield, which has benefited the shares in recent periods and put valuation multiples near historic highs.

Bank of America

Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) was just featured as one of the five worst performing Warren Buffett picks for 2016, and it was then downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James on July 7. Bank of America shares closed at $12.86 on Wednesday and were indicated down 0.2% at $12.83 on Thursday but closed at $13.17 on Friday. The 52-week range is $10.99 to $18.48, and the consensus target price is $17.22.

Citigroup

On Friday, July 8, Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) was downgraded by Wells Fargo to Market Perform from Outperform. Does it mean anything that one money center bank downgraded another one? The firm reduced its second-quarter and 2016/2017 earnings estimates and valuation ranges and said that global growth uncertainty is poised to weight on Citi shares.

Wells Fargo lowered its valuation range to $45 to $47 from $50 to $52. Citigroup shares were actually up 1.7% at $41.98 as trading came to a close on Friday, versus a consensus analyst price target of $54.72 and a 52-week range of $34.52 to $60.95. This call was interesting considering that Citi passed its stress test and tripled its dividend.

Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) was downgraded to Underperform from Outperform at CLSA (Credit Agricole) on July 6 with a $52 price target, just about a week after J.Morgan also downgraded the chemical giant (along with DuPont) to Neutral from Overweight. JPMorgan pointed to cautious business conditions where chemical companies and petrochemical players often have risks, and CLSA thinks the merger has a high probability of approval.

After unusual midday trading activity on Friday, Dow Chemical closed at $49.40. It has a consensus price target of $59.38 and a 52-week range of $35.11 to $57.10.