Zacks Makes Washington Post as Bull of the Day

Zacks Makes Washington Post as Bull of the Day-Image via Wikipedia

Zacks Equity Research highlights The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) as the Bull of the Day and Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE: AVP) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Toyota Motors (NYSE: TM), Priceline (Nasdaq: PCLN) and WMS Industries (NYSE: WMS).

Full analysis of all these stocks is available at

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

The Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) top and bottom lines surpassed Zacks’ expectations in the third quarter of 2011. The quarterly earnings of $5.27 per share beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.85. Total revenue of $1,032.6 million also came ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,005 million.

The Kaplan Education division has undertaken a restructuring plan to lower its costs structure in the near future. Further, Kaplan International remains promising, registering growth of 25% during the quarter. Washington Post’s Cable division is also performing well, reflecting sustained improvement in Internet and telephone service revenues.

We have a long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock. Our target price of $374.00, 17.9X 2011 EPS, reflects this view.

Bear of the Day:

We have downgraded our long-term recommendation on Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE: AVP) to Underperform following the weak quarterly performance in the third quarter of 2011. The quarterly earnings of $0.38 per share fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.46 and dipped 7.3% from the year-ago quarter battered by increased product costs.

The North American market continues to be sluggish in the ongoing fiscal 2011. Moreover, the company’s initiatives to change the product mix and reposition the business in the U.S. market will require significant expenditure to support increased advertising and promotional activities, which may dent its margins.

Furthermore, Avon is a highly leveraged company, limiting its financial flexibility to drive future growth. Additionally, the company faces stiff competition from other well established players and has significant exposure to foreign currency translations.

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Europe Issue Not Going Away

With the third quarter reporting season largely over and nothing major on the domestic economic calendar, stock market movements today will effectively reflect developments on the European front. The focus remains on Italy, where a routine budget vote in parliament has the potential to morph into a confidence vote on the government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The market is rooting for Mr. Berlusconi’s departure, but he appears in no mood to quit on his own.

By its sheer size, Italy is a big deal. Ever since the start of the Euro-zone debt crisis, the market has been apprehensive of contagion spreading from the peripheral and much smaller economies of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to the Euro-zone core of Italy and Spain. Those fears are threatening to come to fruition now as the market loses confidence in the Italian government’s ability to manage the country’s finances. This lack of confidence is showing up in yields on Italian government bonds, which have moved to a Euro-era high of above 6.5% and are inching towards the critical 7% level — beyond which lies bailout territory.

A simple answer to rising Italian bond yields would have been for the European Central Bank (ECB) to come up with its version of the U.S. Fed’s quantitative easing program, where the central bank purchases a boatload of treasury bonds to keep yields (or interest rates) in check. The ECB has been making some purchases, but the recent uptrend in Italian bond yields shows that its effort is far from effective. German reluctance to go this route has been a major hurdle.

The Euro-zone had provided for increasing the firepower of the rescue fund (the EFSF), but many critical details of that plan still need to be worked out. The initial hope of attracting contribution from China and other cash-rich emerging economies to that end has also not panned out.

The bottom line is that the Euro-zone debt story refuses to go away. Last week it was about Greece and now it is about Italy. The departure of the Berlusconi government will likely improve market confidence and bring down bond yields. But if the incoming government — assuming there is a change of political control — fails to come up with a viable long-term plan, then the respite will likely prove short-lived.

On the earnings front, we have results from Toyota Motors (NYSE: TM), whose operations have been hit hard by natural disasters — first by the Japanese Tsunami and now by floods in Thailand. The auto giant’s global vehicle sales for the six month period ending September 30th were down more than 18% from the year-earlier level.

In other earnings reports, Priceline (Nasdaq: PCLN) came out with solid EPS and revenue beats after the close on Monday. WMS Industries (NYSE: WMS), the maker of slot machines, came short of expectations.

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next 3-6 months.

About the Analyst Blog

Updated throughout every trading day, the Analyst Blog provides analysis from Zacks Equity Research about the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.

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