Copyright ©​ Daniel Cullinane CPA.

​Stocks were indicated to open higher after a very mixed week of trading, but all ears will be on Federal Reserve Chair Powell speaking in Jackson Hole on Friday for any comments about the interest rate outlook. Despite the strong earnings season being all but over and despite the all-time highs in the S&P 500 this week, investors have seen less reward in 2018 in buying every dip than they had been used to in recent years. Now investors are deciding how they want their investments positioned ahead of the midterm elections and with international trade concerns.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day of the week. The goal is to find new investing and trading ideas for our readers. Some of the daily analyst reports cover stocks to buy, and some reports cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

Additional commentary has been added on most of the daily analyst reports, along with trading history. The consensus analyst price targets and other valuation metrics are from the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen on Friday, August 24, 2018.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) was down almost 3.2% at $172.33 on Thursday after earnings created a mixed trading day. UBS maintained it as Buy but trimmed the price target to $245 from $250. KeyBanc Capital Markets maintained its Overweight rating but lowered its target to $229 from $235. Argus maintained its Buy rating but took its target down to $235 from $275. Alibaba has a 52-week trading range of $164.25 to $211.70.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) was downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $61 price target (versus a $59.82 prior close) at Jefferies. This call had shares down almost 1% at $59.30 just a day after Altria announced a dividend hike.

Asbury Automotive Group Inc. (NYSE: ABG) was started as Hold and assigned a $78 target price (versus a $75.75 close) at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) was down 0.5% at $136.31 ahead of earnings and was indicated up almost 10% at $148.75 after posting strong earnings and guidance. Barclays reiterated the stock as Overweight and raised the target price to $166 from $152, while Wedbush Securities maintained it as Neutral but raised the target was $145 from $137.

AutoNation Inc. (NYSE: AN) was started with a Hold rating and assigned a $48 target price (versus a $46.38 close) at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Berry Petroleum Corp. (NASDAQ: BRY) was started as Outperform with an $18 price target (versus a $14.03 close) at Evercore ISI.

Hormel Foods Corp. (NYSE: HRL) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays, a day after its shares slid 3% to $37.33. The 52-week range is $29.75 to $39.15.24/7 Wall St.
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HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) closed up almost 0.6% at $24.63 ahead of earnings on Thursday and was indicated down almost 3% at $23.90 on Friday. Morgan Stanley maintained HP as Equal Weight but raised the price target to $29 from $29. Maxim Group reiterated its Buy rating and raised its target price to $29 from $28.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley. KeyBanc Capital Markets maintained its Underweight rating but cut its target price to $25 from $28.

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) was raised to Buy from Hold with a $410 target price (versus a $339.17 close) at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Penske Automotive Group Inc. (NYSE: PAG) was started as Buy and assigned a $60 target price (versus a $51.95 close) at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

SecureWorks Corp. (NASDAQ: SCWX) was downgraded to Sell from Neutral with an $11 price target (versus a $13.55 close) at UBS. It has a 52-week trading range of $7.83 to $15.88.

Tandem Diabetes Care Inc. (NASDAQ: TNDM) was raised to Neutral from Underperform with a $45 price objective (versus a $38.61 close) at Merrill Lynch.

Turtle Beach Corp. (NASDAQ: HEAR) was reiterated as Outperform with a $42 price target (versus a $27.95 close) at Wedbush. The firm sees Turtle Beach continuing to enjoy substantial market growth and market share gains, and it also sees improved operational efficiencies further boosting earnings.

WMIH Corp. (NYSE: WMIH) was started with an Underweight rating and assigned a $1.25 price target (versus a $1.61 close) at Piper Jaffray. This equivalent of a Sell rating was just started as Outperform with a $1.90 price target at Wedbush the prior day.

Thursday’s top analyst calls included Aetna, Analog Devices, Lowe’s, Merck, Pfizer, Plug Power, Qualcomm, Target and many more.

Follow @Jonogg on Twitter to receive the daily analyst calls and other market research calls directly on your feed.

​NEW INVESTMENT STRATEGY

​Athletic gear maker Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) climbed over Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) last week to regain its ranking as the best-performing Dow Jones industrials stock for the year to date. Nike shares added 3.4% last week, while Apple dropped about 0.7% of its share price. So far in 2018, Nike stock is up 31.8%.

The second-best performer among the Dow index equities so far this year is Apple, which is up 27.7%. It is followed by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), up 26.7%, Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), up 26.5%, and Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK), up 22.7%. Of the 30 Dow stocks, 16 have managed to post a gain to date in 2018.

The blue-chip index added 121 points last week to close at 25,669.32, up about 0.5% compared to the previous Friday’s close. The Dow closed up less than 1% for the second quarter, and down 1.8% for the first six months of 2018. For the year to date, the index is up 3.9%, trailing both the S&P 500 (up 6.6%) and the Nasdaq Composite (up 13.4%).

Nike started the week with a bang. On Monday, analysts at Piper Jaffray and Susquehanna lifted their ratings on the stock. Piper Jaffray’s Erinn Murphy raised her rating on Nike from Neutral to Overweight and raised her price target from $72 to $93. Susquehanna analyst Sam Poser raised his rating from Neutral to Positive and lifted his price target from $78 to $93.

The company hit a speed bump on Wednesday when it closed some of its South Africa stores following a racist remark by a man who was reportedly married to Nike’s merchandising director for the country. The stores reopened Friday. The closures appear to have had only a temporary and modest effect on the stock price.

Shares closed Friday at $82.45, down about 0.6% for the day, in a 52-week range of $50.35 to $83.68. The stock’s consensus price target is $82.36, and the forward price-to-earnings ratio is 26.34.

​TOP STOCK

​AUGUST NEWSLETTER 8

​Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) has released its major list of public equity holdings as of June 30, 2018. This is the largest conglomerate in America, and founder Warren Buffett has been crowned as one of the greatest investors of all time. Buffett even previously held the title of the world’s richest man, and that makes the so-called whale watchers look rather closely at what Buffett and his team are buying or selling in the stock market.

It turns out that Berkshire Hathaway may be a mix when it comes to industry codes. That means it is taking on aspects of conglomerates, industrials, financials, hedge funds and private equity.

24/7 Wall St. has tracked Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway’s investments for years. The more recent observations about Buffett’s portfolio changes coming into mid-2018 have been quite different from many of the historic and traditional Buffett picks. What also has been seen is that Berkshire Hathaway is now making updates to holdings after it owns the statutory 10% of an issuer’s outstanding shares. These are all combining into making the 2018 Buffett stocks look almost night and day versus the past.

Buffett and his team of portfolio managers had public equity holdings of $195.61 billion for the total value of the 13F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This dollar figure was shown to be about $179 billion in the quarterly earnings report (10-Q). This is the equity value of the investment portfolio only, and it does not include any of the public debt and convertible securities held by Berkshire Hathaway.

Investors who chase Buffett’s investment ideas need to understand that Ted Weschler and Todd Combs have made more aggressive investments on behalf of Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie Munger also might have a role in anything that looks like a Buffett stock pick. It was the team under Buffett that made the big commitment in 2016 to make a multi-billion dollar investment into the major airline stocks. A recent Buffett release showed that a self-imposed 10% ownership has caused the company to sell certain banking and airline industries, while increasing some holdings in the same industries while remaining under the 10% issue. Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings report from the quarter ended June 30, 2018, included combined gains of $4.824 billion in direct investments and another $294 million in gains on derivatives. The gain in derivatives is not reflected in the holdings as of June 30, 2018.

Buffett already has confirmed in prior quarters that his first technology pick of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) was a big mistake. Buffett’s IBM stake did not appear at all in the same 13F filing from May 15, 2018 (for March 31, 2018 holding date). We also have seen that Buffett continued to increase his position in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). In fact, the Berkshire Hathaway quarterly earnings report showed that Apple stake was worth a whopping $47.2 billion. Buffett also admitted back in 2017 that Amazon and online retailing elsewhere were top reasons for why he sold most of his shares in Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT). That Walmart stake is now down to just 1.393 million shares, the same as at the end of March.

Berkshire Hathaway’s balance sheet under insurance and other operations also showed another investment in Kraft Heinz Co. (NASDAQ: KHC) that has been on the books for some time now and was valued at that time at $17.53 billion (versus $17.635 billion at the end of 2017) in the 10-Q. The 13F filing released on August 14 showed this as the same 325.634 million shares of Kraft Heinz worth some $20.456 billion. The quarterly earnings report filing also showed that roughly 70% of the aggregate fair value was concentrated in Buffett’s big-five companies:

American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) was valued at $14.9 billion and is the same 151.61 million shares per the 13F filing.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was a larger stake and was valued at $47.2 billion at the end of June and this is now listed as about 239.5 million shares.
Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) is held from the conversion of preferred securities invested into the company after the recession. This is valued at $19.7 billion as of June 30, 2018, a stake of about 679 million shares.
Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) was valued at $17.5 billion, and this is the same 400 million share stake as has been seen for years.
Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) was valued at $26.4 billion, and the stake of 452.01 million shares is down slightly from the prior 456.5 million.

Investors need to understand that Team Buffett is generally a passive investor. That said, Weschler and Coombs have been encouraged to take board seats on companies they invested in. With those few exceptions, Berkshire Hathaway recently issued a press release signaling that the company wishes to avoid owning 10% or more of the outstanding shares of public companies. Yet, some companies are repurchasing and retiring their own shares and that can sometimes require Berkshire Hathaway to make minor sales to avoid hitting the 10% threshold.

​ANALYSTS UPGRADES


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Again, a recent release from Berkshire Hathaway confirmed that some “10% stakes” had been sold and stakes had been increased in other companies in the same industries in banking and airlines. That press release said:

These buy and sell decisions did not reflect our investment management’s views as to the relative attractiveness of the bought and sold securities but were rather a response to the 10% limitation. Similar situations may occur in future quarterly reports as Berkshire continues to have 9% plus holdings in a number of equity securities that are active repurchasers of their shares.

There have been some additional filings prior to the 13F filing for June 30, 2018, in companies where Berkshire Hathaway owns major stakes. Three of these stakes are shown and additional notes have been made in the full public equity holdings.

Axalta Coatings Systems Ltd. (NYSE: AXTA), according to a more recent 13G filing, had 24.264 million shares owned by Berkshire Hathaway and its affiliated persons and entities. As of December 31, 2017, Buffett and his team owned 23.324 million shares, and that was said to be 9.52% of the shares outstanding. Based on a $30 share price (and in a 52-week trading range of $28.04 to $38.20), the current market capitalization rate is $7.38 billion, and that puts the stake at a value at roughly $728 million.

DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA) was shown in a May 11, 2018, SEC filing to be a stake of 38,565,570 shares, representing 22.1% of the shares outstanding. That was the same size stake as at the end of 2017, though at that time the stake was just 21.19% of the shares outstanding.

USG Corp. (NYSE: USG) was a stake in which some reporting changed in the latest data. A 13D filing from June 10, 2018 (prior to the June 30 cut-off date for the holdings) showed an aggregate of 43,387,980 shares, worth 31.1% of the outstanding shares. At the end of 2017, Berkshire Hathaway’s stake was listed as 39,002,016 shares, a holding of 27.65% of the shares outstanding. Gebr. Knauf KG is acquiring USG in a transaction valued at approximately $7.0 billion, and Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to vote in favor of the terms of the merger. The transaction is expected to close in early 2019.

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Of the other banking and airline stock changes, these have been covered first due to some being in the 10.0% SEC thresholds. Other holdings will be reflected in the full batch.

American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) was a slightly smaller stake of 44.7 million shares, less than 2 million shares changed from the prior report.

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (NYSE: BK) was a larger stake of 64.8 million shares, up from 62.19 million shares.

Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) was a larger stake of 63.67 million shares, up from the prior report of almost 54 million shares.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) was a slightly larger stake of 51.39 million shares, up from 50 million shares.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) is a larger stake of 13.25 million shares, up from 10.959 million in the prior report. That came from the old recession financing Buffett made via preferred shares that he ultimately converted to an equity stake.

Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) was a larger stake at 56.54 million shares than the 47.66 million in the prior report.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) was 26.684 million shares, and that’s down slightly from 27.7 million in the prior report.

Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) was down to about 34.7 million shares, which we already knew had been lowered due to that 10% holding threshold in prior months.

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) was the same 137.91 million shares, but there are additional Liberty holdings in Liberty Global (up), Liberty Media and Liberty Latin America that are often grouped together by investors.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA) was a larger stake at 43.249 million shares, up from about 40.5 million shares.

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) saw its shares rise to 100.69 million shares by the end of June from the prior 90.847 million.


​Other public holdings in the Berkshire Hathaway 13F filing have been shown below.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) was the same stake at 4,333,363 shares.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) was the same tiny stake of only 327,100 shares, but Buffett watchers know this is a leftover bit from a much larger stake in years past.

M&T Bank Corp. (NYSE: MTB) was the same position at 5.382 million shares, and this stake has been static in size for quite some time.

Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA) was the same 4.934 million shares.

Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ) is the same position again at just 578,000 shares, handily lower than in the past and dating back to the Kraft breakup.

Moody’s Corp. (NYSE: MCO) was the same position of 24.669 million shares again, but this stake is much lower than in years past.

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) is still a tiny stake of just 315,400 shares, far lower than before the Duracell swap. The stake had once peaked at 96.3 million shares.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. (NYSE: QSR) was the same stake at 8.438 million shares. As noted previously, this stake has been much larger, if you consider the $3 billion in perpetual preferred shares Buffett received.

Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) was the same position at 3.905 million shares.

Store Capital Corp. (NYSE: STOR) was the same 18.62 million shares.24/7 Wall St.
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Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) was the same stake at roughly 20.8 million shares.

Torchmark Corp. (NYSE: TMK) was the same stake at 6.35 million shares.

United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) was the same position of just 59,400 shares, which is way down from in 2012.

Verisign Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) was the same 12.9 million share stake, but that had been reduced from 13.0 million after having previously grown in 2014.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) was practically eliminated previously, but this remained the same 928 shares after having been as much as 15 million shares during most of 2016.

Verisk Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSK) was eliminated.

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) was the same 10.56 million share stake, but this remains larger than when the stake was first taken.

Please note that other stakes may have been represented in previous filings that have been made since the June 30, 2018, cut-off period for 13F filings. Additional SEC filings also may have altered some of the stakes in the 13F filing as well.

Daniel Cullinane CPA

25 Plaza 5 25th fl Jersey City NJ                                          phone 732-516-1648 fax 732-516-9778

MBA Taxation

Daniel Cullinane CPA

2500 Plaza 5 25th fl  Jersey City NJ 07311                                                          phone 732-516-1648  fax 732-516-9778

                 MBA TAXATION