Middle Tennessee's publicly traded hospital companies got a boost Tuesday from analysts at JPMorgan Chase, who began covering them and others in the industry with mostly positive ratings and price targets that leave a lot of upside. The researchers rate HCA Holdings, Community Health Systems and LifePoint Hospitals at 'overweight' and Vanguard Health Systems at 'neutral.' The last of those companies, they said, will not be able to take advantage as much of the benefits of health care reform, while CHS will see its EBITDA grow almost 10 percent because of reform and LifePoint will benefit most.
In terms of price targets and investors' reaction today, here's a rundown:
• HCA: $39 target, changing hands late in the session at $31.67, up 1.5 percent
• CHS: $38 target, trading at about $31.40, up more than 3 percent
• LifePoint: $46 target, trading at $38.50, up more than 4 percent
• Vanguard: $13 target, up almost 3 percent to $11.80.
Investors wrestling with just how much to pay for many health care stocks ahead of the presidential election will have another factor to consider come Friday morning. Jefferies analyst Brian Tanquilut says hospital chains and other providers could suffer if Paul Ryan puts up a good performance against Joe Biden. Since Mitt Romney's strong debate last week, HCA shares (Ticker: HCA) are off almost 10 percent.
Mitt Romney's widely lauded performance in Wednesday night's presidential debate is generating some skittishness among investors in health care stocks, given his opposition to President Obama's health reform package. That has shares of local hospital companies HCA Holdings and Community Health Systems trying to recover from early trading that had them down more than 5 percent. Shares of LifePoint Hospitals also are down more than 2 percent but Vanguard Health Systems (Ticker: VHS) is escaping the drama so far.
SEE ALSO: MarketWatch's story on today's trading
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