Monday, August 21, 2006

Barron's Summary

Barron's cover discusses Aetna (AET), which shares hit a 52w low on Aug.1, shortly after Aetna disappointed Wall St. with its Q2 earnings. Though the stock has rebounded to about 36.50, it's still down about 23% since the start of the year. Some investors and analysts see plenty of value, however. According to the article, there's good reason to believe that Aetna's problems aren't as bad as the bears portray them. For one thing, predicts Jay Leopold, of Legg Mason Capital Mgmt, Aetna will be able to fix the MCR problem. "They will be able to correct the medical cost issues they face over time," probably within 12 months. Analysts say that there's room to raise premiums. Jay Nogueira, of T. Rowe Price, which as of June 30 held 3.1m shares of Aetna, says that, while "things didn't quite break their way" on the medical-cost ratio, the co made up for it by reducing overhead costs. The quarter, he adds, was "not an unmitigated disaster, the way the market is treating it." Matthew Borsch, of Goldman Sachs, who upgraded the shares the day after Q2 earnings came out, calls the selloff "overdone, leaving an attractive risk/reward" ratio. His six-month tgt is 40.

Barron's discusses Ameriprise Financial (AMP) which came public at 34.34, and now trades for 45.50, or a modest 14x earnings. But the stock could be worth 57 as the co's strategic moves yield results.

If sales of variable annuities in Japan continue to slide, Hartford Financial's (HIG) profit growth will sputter. Bears think that could keep valuations cheap.

The Trader column suggests that the builder's rally is likely just an enjoyable summer zephyr. Larry Jeddeloh, chief investment officer at money manager TIS Group, did buy shares of Toll Brothers (TOL) and Ryland Group (RYL), but he notes that it's a quick trade to take advantage of a likely short-term rally. "My gut feeling" is that there is another leg down for this group, he adds, as the stocks typically fall significantly below book value before they rally on a sustainable basis.

Follow Up section reviews Procter&Gamble (PG) and PepsiCo (PEP) articles. Article suggests that P&G is still fine, despite feaars and new boss should keep fizz in Pepsi.

Technology Trader section highlights story about small defense stocks, notably UIC and AH, ones that should outperform. Article was highlighted in Barron's Online Friday.
Read here.

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