The broker wrap: three buys amid the downgrades

Founder of FNArena
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Changes to broker recommendations in the past week

Thirteen ratings changes have occurred in the past week, according to the FNArena database, with three upgrades and ten downgrades. However, no ‘sell’ warnings were issued.

RBS’s new year review of the transport sector led to only one rating change – an upgrade for Brambles (BXB) to Buy. The analysts are looking to an improving US economy as a reason to invest in the performance of the CHEP pallet business. The upgrade came with a 22% increase in target price. An update on the local oil and gas sector revealed the stockbroker is working off an anticipated lower oil price this year, while expecting increased merger and acquisition (M&A) interest.

In line with many other experts, RBS prefers Santos (STO) among the larger producers and decided to downgrade Woodside (WPL) to Hold this week. That was before Woodside delivered a positively surprising production report for the first time since 2005.

Popular REIT Goodman Group (GMG) has been having a good run of late, which is a bit of a shame given Credit Suisse had the stock on Neutral. GMG has suffered from dilution, but Credit Suisse expects that impact to wane over the next sixth months while transparency of capital structure and earnings improve. On that basis, it has upgraded Goodman to Buy.

Analysts were generally pleased with Leighton Holdings’ (LEI) trading update last week, which appeared to reduce the risk of further impairments amongst its local troubled assets. Such stability should be a comfort for the market suggested Macquarie, and this was enough for an upgrade to Buy.

Citi had a look at the prospects for AGL Energy (AGK) this year and while there is nothing of concern, the analysts just don’t see anything exciting happening for the utility. On that basis, they downgraded it to Neutral. Citi also downgraded Commonwealth Property Office (CPA) to Neutral on recent strong performance, suggesting a share price in the low 90-cent area would prompt a return to Buy.

Credit Suisse was underwhelmed by a quarterly result from blood market competitor Behring, resulting in a rethink of earnings forecasts for CSL (CSL). A downgrade to Neutral followed.

JP Morgan analysts had put their faith in the restructuring of Dexion as a source of improved margins for GUD Holdings (GUD) and are generally of the opinion the stock looks cheap. But there’s just no encouraging the Australian consumer as we move into 2012 and hence they have downgraded it to Neutral.

The weak consumer market was also on BA-Merrill Lynch’s mind when it decided it was time to downgrade Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) to Neutral.

Invocare (IVC) has been having a good run in this climate of consumer uncertainty, enough for Credit Suisse to consider value to now be fair and downgrade it to Neutral.

QBE Insurance (QBE) shocked all and sundry with its big profit warning the week before last, leaving analysts scratching their heads ever since. A lack of clarity is the issue, enough for Citi to downgrade it to Neutral last week and to join peers in slashing forecast earnings.

Late last year there had been a lot of speculation that cold pie peddler Spotless (SPT) was being sized up for a takeover. The share price is up 35% without any improvement in earnings guidance and that interest seems to have dried up. Hence UBS has downgraded it to Neutral.

Changes to earnings forecasts (EF) in the past week

Rudi Filapek-Vandyck is the editor of FNArena. FNArena monitors eight leading stockbrokers on a daily: BA-Merrill Lynch, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Macquarie, RBS and UBS.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

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