The world’s largest asset manager is impressed with the market’s recent gains, and it has made that sentiment clear by upgrading US stocks. In its recent reassessment of conditions in the American financial markets, investment giant BlackRock issued a general upgrade for Wall Street. This wasn’t an upgrade on particular stocks, but on the US market as a whole.
Explaining the move, the BlackRock note points out that the daily COVID news is just noise – the real news is on the vaccine front, where at least two effective vaccines are just months away from public distribution. A viable vaccine for the coronavirus disease will push us back to normal conditions, and boost investors’ mood immeasurably. Hence, the upgrade.
“We upgrade US equities to overweight, with a preference for quality large caps riding structural growth trends, as well as smaller companies geared to a potential cyclical upswing,” BlackRock said.
The company expects to see a cyclical upturn in the US economy in 2021, as the coronavirus crisis fades into the background and the political landscape moves back to pre-Trump patterns.
The general upgrade by BlackRock was only one sign of confidence in the US markets. Several of Wall Street’s research firms have also been issuing upgraded stances, taking a micro view and applying their revisions to specific equities. We’ve pulled up three from the TipRanks database, and found that they fit BlackRock’s preference: mid- to large-cap companies with established positions in the market.
Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. (CLF)
We’ll start with Cleveland-Cliffs, an Ohio based mining company. Cleveland-Cliffs specializes in iron production, and has four active mines in Minnesota and Michigan. The company focuses on mining, beneficiating, and pelletizing the ore, a process that produces iron pellets in a variety of grades fit for blast furnace smelting, steelmaking, and alloying. Cleveland-Cliffs is capable, on its own, of producing more than 40% of the total US capacity in iron pellets. It also produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless steel, and electrical steel products.
As the economy ramps back up, recovering from the deepest coronavirus hits, Cleveland-Cliffs’ revenues have been rising. The company’s top line has grown since the first quarter of 2020, posting sequential gains in both Q2 and Q3. The third quarter number, at $1.65 billion, was in line with analyst expectations, and came in far ahead of the $555.6 million posted in the year-ago quarter.
The share price has mirrored this recovery. The stock hit bottom back in mid-March, at just $3.14 per share. Since then, it has shown impressive growth. The shares have fully recouped those mid-winter losses, and are now trading up 32% year-to-date.
GLJ Research analyst Gordon Johnson sees Cleveland-Cliffs gaining as the pandemic draws back and its customers resume normal economic activity. To this end, the analyst upgraded CLF from Hold to Buy, and his $15.80 price target suggests it has a 46% upside in the coming year. (To watch Johnson’s track record, click here)
“US automotive production has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, a clear positive for Cliffs, as ~27% of its (soon-to-be) steel demand comes from that sector. Even oil/gas rig counts, while still down sharply y/y, appear to have turned a corner in terms of growth. Moreover, our checks indicate potential delays to supply additions. As we see it, these dynamics, which have sent US HRC prices to near $734/short ton last week, have the potential to keep … price levels sustained into 2021,” Johnson stated.
Overall, the Moderate Buy consensus rating on CLF is based on an even split; the stock has 3 Buys and 3 Holds on record. However, its recent share appreciation has pushed it above the average price target. The shares are selling for $10.85, while the average target remains $10.09 for now. (See CLF stock analysis on TipRanks)
General Electric (GE)
Also upgraded today is General Electric. The company once boasted one of the most famous marketing jingles in advertising – “We bring good things to life” – referring to its position as a major manufacturer of home appliances. Today, this multinational conglomerate has its hands in a wide variety of manufacturing sectors, from aviation to electrical power to renewable energy.
GE’s stock has been on an upward trajectory since the company released the Q3 earnings report at the end of October. The results – while down year-over-year – showed solid sequential gains and came in above analyst expectations. At the top line, revenue grew from $17.7 billion to $19.4 billion, while EPS, which had been negative in Q2, turned positive and came in at 6 cents per share. The EPS forecast had been for a 6-cent loss.
Christopher Glynn, 5-star analyst with Oppenheimer, sees GE in a fundamentally sound position. The analyst upgraded GE, taking it from Neutral to Outperform (i.e. Buy). His $12 price target implies an upside potential of ~15% for the next 12 months. (To watch Glynn’s track record, click here)
Glynn commented, “Our Outperform rating reflects view of more pointed read-through of cost reduction initiatives resulting in early stages of clearer breadth of operating momentum across the segments. We believe working capital performance could surprise to the upside in 2021, considering GE working through widespread facility consolidations and managing working capital amidst that during2020 (and continuing).”
“We also like the extended duration of the debt structure and strong liquidity, now affording a backdrop toemerge from the Aviation downturn in a position of resilience,” the analyst noted.
GE’s recent share appreciation has pushed the stock price above the average price target. The stock is currently trading at $10.45 per share – but the average target is $9.29. It remains to be seen if Glynn’s upgrade and higher target are the start of general reassessment of this stock. For now, GE has a Moderate Buy analyst consensus rating, based on 13 reviews that include 8 Buys and 5 Holds. (See GE stock analysis at TipRanks)
Wells Fargo (WFC)
Last but not least is Wells Fargo, whose $118 billion market cap makes it the world’s fourth largest bank. It is also the fourth largest in the US, boasting nearly $2 trillion in total assets. Wells Fargo offers a full range of banking services, for residential and commercial customers as well as major companies and investment firms.
The corona crisis of 2020 hit Well Fargo hard, and the bank’s share price has still not recovered from the fall it took in February and March of this year. Revenues have been regaining ground through the past nine months, but slowly – the Q3 number, $18.7 billion, was up a full billion dollars from Q1, but still down from 4Q19, the last pre-corona quarter. The Fed’s low interest rate policy has put a damper on bank profits, and Wells Fargo’s net interest income for the Q3 was down 19% year-over-year to $9.4 billion.
Despite these headwinds, Raymond James analyst David Long is turning bullish on WFC shares. In a research note issued today, the analyst double-upgraded WFC from Underperform (i.e. Sell) to Outperform (i.e. Buy) along with a $32 price target. (To watch Long’s track record, click here)
In his comments on the stock, Long notes the composition of Wells Fargo’s loan portfolio as a structural strength: “We expect Wells Fargo’s credit performance during this credit cycle to perform better than its peers due to its large exposure to residential real estate loans, which account for 35% of its total loan portfolio (compared to peers at 23%), as home prices have held up well. Furthermore, its exposure to hotel (1.3% of loans) and entertainment (1.0%) are well below levels of its peers.”
the analyst concluded, “With the worst likely in the past, we now believe that its pretax pre-provision income has troughed, revenue is nearing a bottom, a multi-year expense rationalization initiative can finally be taken on, and repurchase activity can return in the near future.”
All in all, the analyst consensus rating here is a Moderate Buy, based on 14 reviews which include 7 Buys, 6 Holds, and 1 Sell. The average price target, however, reflects Wall Street’s caution here; at $29.08 it suggests only limited growth — 1.64% to be precise. (See WFC stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.