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Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: Fastenal Company, CNO Financial Group, Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard

FAST CNO AAPL HPQ

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – January 16, 2012 – Zacks Equity Research highlights: Fastenal Company (FAST - Analyst Report) as the Bull of the Day and CNO Financial Group (CNO - Analyst Report) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Apple Inc (AAPL - Analyst Report), Google Inc.  and Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ - Analyst Report).

Full analysis of all these stocks is available at http://at.zacks.com/?id=2678.

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

Fastenal Company (FAST - Analyst Report) has been eyeing profitable government projects in order to strengthen its position in local markets. Moreover, the company has undertaken several steps that will simultaneously upgrade its services and reduce costs.

Its hub and spoke model and aggressive store expansion strategy supported by an improving cash flow will also increase customer satisfaction and benefit its business going forward. The company's profits in the most recent quarter were in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.33 per share.

Therefore, we have upgraded our recommendation on the shares of Fastenal from Neutral to Outperform. Our $55 target price, 39.6x our 2012 EPS estimate, reflects this view.

Bear of the Day:

We are downgrading our recommendation on CNO Financial Group (CNO - Analyst Report) to Underperform based on the continuous deterioration in the premium revenue of its Bankers Life segment, coupled with the significant underwriting and pricing risks. The company's third-quarter earnings results were driven by poor top-line performance in most business segments.

The current interest rate environment, which is generating spread compression, will continue to put pressure on the bottom line. We do not expect any significant improvement on that front in the forthcoming quarters as the pricing pressure is expected to persist for awhile.

Our six-month target price of $5.75 equates to 7.9x our earnings estimate for 2011. This price target implies an expected negative total return of 10.9% over that period. This is consistent with our Underperform recommendation on the shares.

Latest Posts on the Zacks Analyst Blog:

Decline in PC Shipments Continues

Personal computer (PC) shipments continue to struggle as research firms Gartner and IDC reported a decline in PC shipments for the fourth quarter of 2011. Gartner and IDC estimate 1.4% and 0.2% declines in worldwide PC shipments, respectively in the fourth quarter.

Worldwide PC shipments for the fourth quarter were in the range of 92 million and 93 million, as per Gartner and IDC. The adjusted figures could be gathered from the PC makers, as the companies release their quarterly reports in the coming weeks.

This decline in PC shipments is attributable to various factors, the most important of them being the growing popularity of the mobile devices that are more convenient, less expensive and almost as powerful as PCs. The massive popularity of smartphones was primarily responsible for the decline in PC sales.

In this regard, the iPhone needs a special mention as Apple Inc’s. (AAPL - Analyst Report) iconic device has garnered a massive fan following since its launch in 2007. Google Inc.’s  Android operating system (used in more than 200 million smartphones across the world) has also contributed to the popularity of smartphones, which in turn has affected PC sales. This apart, with the advent of tablets, which are becoming increasingly popular, PC sales have further deteriorated. Global PC major Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ - Analyst Report) leads the pack with 16.0% of the total market share.

The problems for the PC manufacturers were aggravated by the recent flood in Thailand, which disrupted the hard disk manufacturing process for some time, leading to hard-disk drive shortages, and thereby leading to a price increase, with a corresponding pressure on margins. The increase in costs is somewhat absorbed by the PC manufacturers, while the other part is passed on to the consumers through price increases.

The greatest decline in PC shipments was reported in the US. Both Gartner and IDC calculated a fourth-quarter PC shipment decline of 5.0% to 6.0% in the US, which is the biggest fall in PC shipments in the last decade.

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to http://at.zacks.com/?id=2649.

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next 3-6 months.

About the Analyst Blog

Updated throughout every trading day, the Analyst Blog provides analysis from Zacks Equity Research about the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous analyst coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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