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Bull of the Day

Marriott International's (MAR) first quarter 2012 earnings were slightly above the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $0.01. Going forward, the company's strong pipeline, significant international exposure, solid balance sheet, aggressive share-buyback strategy, lower operating cost structure and increased market share augur well for its earnings. The company recently hiked its quarterly dividend by 30%.

Moreover, the spin-out of its timeshare business is promising, as Marriott is able to concentrate more on its core hotel management and franchise business. Additionally, considering the increased global demand, modest supply growth, accelerating group business and strong pricing environment, we expect the top line to improve further.

Marriott's deal of managing Gaylord also remains strategically sound. Hence, we reiterate our Outperform stance on the stock. Our six-month target price of $44.00 equates to 26.5x our earnings estimate for 2012. Combined with a quarterly dividend of $0.13 per share, this price target implies an expected total return of 19.4% over that period.

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