Now that the bull market is more than eight years old and many of the pro-growth policies out of Washington may be muted or delayed, many investors are wondering how they should be investing their money. Stocks are very close to all-time highs, and investors have seen buyers step in and buy stocks on every single pullback.
24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day of the week in an effort to find new investing and trading ideas for our readers. This becomes hundreds of analyst reports each week. It is rather common to hear analysts telling their clients to buy many stocks. What is far less common is when an analyst says to sell a stock.
After reviewing the weekly tally of analyst calls from the week of May 15 to May 19, it turns out that analysts issued many new Sell and Underperform equivalent ratings on some rather well-known stocks. Having a Hold or a Neutral rating may mean a valuation is fair or that the good news is baked in. Still, Sell ratings can spook investors.
It is important to understand that one analyst may have a Sell rating at the same time another analyst says to buy a stock. That is what makes a ball game. It also does not assure that a stock is about to fall off a cliff. For a reference on a contrast between Buy/Sell, in some manners it is no different than when a very popular stock that is loved by analysts and investors is also heavily targeted by short sellers.
24/7 Wall St. included color on each Sell equivalent rating from this past week. Other data, including the sell-side consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters and trading history, were also included.
These were the top 10 Sell ratings seen from analysts during the week of May 15 to May 19, 2017.
Acceleron Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: XLRN) was started with a Sell rating and assigned a $20 price target at Goldman Sachs on May 17. While this was not a “screaming sell” rating, the firm sees a lack of meaningful upside catalysts for the next year and that any positive drug upside is more than priced into the stock.
While this was an initiation rather than a downgrade, that $20 target compares with a $30.30 prior closing price, which implies shares were ready to lose one-third of their value. Acceleron shares were trading at $25.56 on Friday’s close.
CenturyLink and Level 3
CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: LVLT), with the former in the process of buying the latter, were both downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James on May 15. That’s the firm’s version of a Sell rating, and it believes that investors may throw in the towel here and see lower rather than higher post-merger growth at Level 3.
The only good news here about such negative ratings is that CenturyLink shares hardly budged on the call. After closing at $24.63 the prior day, they managed to close at $24.81 after the downgrade. The stock closed at $24.87 on Friday. One other thing about CenturyLink was that activist hedge fund Corvex Management recently took stake in it.
Church & Dwight
Church & Dwight Co. Inc. (NYSE: CHD) was downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley on May 16. This is Morgan Stanley’s version of a Sell rating. Church & Dwight shares were indicated down 0.6% at $49.95 on Tuesday after the call, and the stock ended the week at $49.74 a share.
One problem that the stock faces, despite being among the “defensive” stocks under a consumer products label, is that its valuations have generally been far higher than its larger rivals. The 52-week trading range is $42.56 to $53.68, and the consensus analyst target price was $49.81 on Friday.