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Shares of Cousins Properties Incorporated (CUZ - Analyst Report) hit a new 52-week high touching $12.17 at the end of the trading session on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, thanks to increased investors’ expectation following the company’s lease deal with Earth Fare at Emory Point. Also, the stock gained from strong first-quarter 2014 results.

The closing price of $12.17 represents a solid year-to-date return of 21.3%. The trading volume for the session was 1.36 million shares.

Despite the strong price appreciation, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has plenty of upside left, given the improving operating environment, expected second-quarter 2014 earnings growth of 48.3% and long-term growth of 8.06%. In addition, the company has recorded a solid average earnings surprise of 10.8% in the last four quarters.

Growth Drivers

Recently, Cousins Properties along with Gables Residential penned a lease deal with Earth Fare for 24,782-square-foot of space in Emory Point Phase II, Atlanta, GA. With the inclusion of Earth Fare – a North Carolina-based organic and natural foods grocer – this Phase II’s retail space is 64.6% leased. The deal is a strategic fit as it will augment Cousins Properties’ strong tenant base and pave the way for rental revenue escalations.

Moreover, earlier this month, driven by a significant rise in revenues, Cousins Properties reported an earnings surprise of 11.8% for first-quarter 2014. In particular, the company reported FFO of 19 cents per share, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2 cents as well as the year-ago figure by 8 cents.

Notably, Cousins Properties’ portfolio is primarily concentrated in the high-growth Sun Belt markets, which due to their long-term demographic trends, is expected to exhibit above-average job growth. Its focus on building its business on a simpler platform, by specifically targeting trophy assets and opportunistic investments, ensures a steady revenue stream.

Over the last 7 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for full-year 2014 and 2015 FFO per share remained stable at 72 and 78 cents per share, respectively.

Other Stocks to Consider

Apart from Cousins Properties, other REITs that reached 52-week highs on May 27 include CBRE Group, Inc. (CBG - Analyst Report), Parkway Properties Inc. (PKY - Snapshot Report) and Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (HST - Analyst Report).

Note: Funds from operations, a widely accepted and reported measure of REITs performance, are derived by adding depreciation, amortization and other non-cash expenses to net income.

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