Now that's an upgrade...
Analyst Brian Tanquilut at Jefferies has hiked his rating on shares of Community Health Systems to 'buy' from 'hold.' That's nothing too unusual, but the price target hike accompanying it was: Tanquilut now sees CHS (Ticker: CYH) climbing to $56, up from just $29. Despite the strong run by hospital stocks in recent months, he says there's plenty more in store — in part because companies are saying they "expect to be able to charge the new health care exchanges rates for patient treatment closer to what commercial insurers pay than to the much-lower reimbursements Medicare and Medicaid pay."
Michael Rose at Raymond James has gone the other way with shares of Pinnacle Financial Partners, lowering his rating to 'market perform' from 'outperform.' Pinnacle (Ticker: PNFP) closed Monday trading at $23.22 and is up more than 23 percent in 2013.
Pinnacle Financial Partners has recruited financial consultant James Hundley to be a senior vice president for Pinnacle Asset Management at its Belle Meade office. Hundley comes to Pinnacle from Raymond James Financial Services, which is Pinnacle's partner in fee-based investment management. The University of Tennessee graduate has nine years of experience and also is a volunteer lacrosse coach at Ensworth Middle School.
Raymond James analyst John Ransom on Tuesday lowered his earnings estimates for Community Health Systems and several of its peers, saying hospital admissions look to be softening this fall. (See HCA's preview of its Q3 results.) In his note, Ransom also added his two cents on the upcoming election's possible effect on publicly traded hospital companies.
In his view, the stocks will rise 10 to 15 percent if President Obama is re-elected because health care reform could lead to stronger growth starting in 2014. If former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is elected he thinks investors will be concerned about their business fundamentals and the potential fiscal cliff in 2013, and the shares will decline somewhat.
CHS (Ticker: CYH) gave up 1.4 percent Tuesday, as did LifePoint Hospitals and Vanguard Health. Industry leader HCA, on the other hand, dropped almost 4 percent.
Michael Rose at Raymond James was quick on the draw Wednesday morning, upgrading shares of Pinnacle Financial Partners before the bell to 'outperform' from 'market perform' and hiking his target to $21. Nimble investors likely got a piece of the 10 percent jump Pinnacle put in after reporting strong third-quarter numbers, but the question is, "What now?" That $21 target would be the stock's highest price since the spring of 2009 (Ticker: PNFP) but it leaves little upside from Wednesday's close of $20.22. And the consensus target among analysts is still just $20.
Analysts at Sidoti & Co. have begun covering shares of National Health Investors with a 'neutral' rating. Sidoti becomes the seventh firm to follow NHI and the fifth to call it a hold. NHI shares (Ticker: NHI) have climbed about 20 percent so far in 2012.
Add Nicholas Jansen to the more skeptical hospital analysts following the runup in the wake of the Supreme Court's health reform ruling. The Raymond James analyst has downgraded shares of HCA Holdings and LifePoint — both were previously 'strong buys' — to 'outperform' and 'market perform,' respectively. HCA (Ticker: HCA) is up about 34 percent this year, LifePoint (Ticker: LPNT) about 7 percent.
Brad Thomas at KeyBanc Capital has downgraded shares of Tractor Supply to 'hold' from 'buy,' saying the retailer is facing "increased risk from high valuation and lofty expectations." On top of that, he says, several consumer spending indicators are flashing warning signs. Shares of Tractor Supply (Ticker: TSCO) have given up some ground of late but are still up 30 percent this year.
Over at Raymond James, Aziz Pirbhoy is giving Dollar General a thumbs up on its move into frozen and refrigerated foods. Dollar General (Ticker: DG) is up 27 percent year to date and pushing for new all-time highs.
Wunderlich Securities is feasting on the fallout from Raymond James' acquisition of Morgan Keegan. The Memphis-based company has recruited three senior VPs in Memphis and another in Dallas. News of their moves comes less than a week after another six people in Memphis and New York made the move.
Regions Financial has put a bow on the sale of its Morgan Keegan investment brokerage to Raymond James Financial. The price tag is $930 million, although Regions also will pocket a $250 million dividend between now and the deal's close. Memphis, where Morgan Keegan is headquartered, will become the home base for Raymond James' fixed-income and public-finance businesses and be the site of a regional support center.