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Bear of the Day: Brinker International (EAT)

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Brinker International (EAT - Free Report) is the owner-operator of over 1600 restaurants under the brands Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy.

The company reports June quarter earnings tomorrow August 24 before the market opens.

But analysts have already been lowering EPS estimates ahead of the report.

And that's why EAT has fallen into the cellar of the Zacks Rank.

In the past 90 days, the Zacks Consensus EPS projection has dropped from $3.20 to $3.11 for this year.

But the fiscal year ended in June, so that picture is over 3/4 in the bag.

The real concern is that the next fiscal year, which began in July has seen the profit consensus fall from $4.02 to $3.68.

This is most likely on worries that consumers will have less to spend on dining out as gas and grocery prices take a bite out of their budgets. And this is obviously a broader global call as Brinker operates in 29 countries.

Analysts Lower the Boom

In early August, we saw this call from Deutsche Bank: Analyst Brian Mullan lowered his price target on Brinker to $33 from $41 and kept a Hold rating on the shares. Ahead of the company's fiscal Q4 earnings results later this month, the analyst updated his model to better account for the known deceleration in sales trends for most all restaurant chains.

And last week came two more sympathetic outlooks...

UBS analyst Dennis Geiger lowered his price target on Brinker to $34 from $41 and kept a Neutral rating on the shares ahead of its Q4 results. While the company remains focused on driving continued traffic share gains and accelerating unit growth, its performance was not immune to slower industry sales in May and June.

Geiger further warns that cost pressures over the coming quarters could be the biggest drag on Brinker earnings.

KeyBanc analyst Eric Gonzalez downgraded Brinker International to Sector Weight from Overweight without a price target. The analyst cites valuation for the downgrade following the stock's 40% run over the last month.

Gonzales cited the prospect of deteriorating consumer confidence and spending over the next year as limiting factors on Brinker's earnings visibility. A changeover in management "also introduces the potential for a reinvestment cycle at a time when cost pressures remain a challenge," he concluded.

Bottom line on EAT: This week's earnings call will give more visibility on the eatery's hungry consumer base. But until the EPS estimates stop going down and start heading back up, just enjoy their food and let the stock simmer a bit more. The Zacks Rank will let you know when it's ready.

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