Today's Must Read
Freight Revenue Woes Ail Union Pacific (UNP), Cost Curbs Aid
Altria (MO) to Benefit From Solid Oral Tobacco Products Unit
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
The Zacks Research Daily presents the best research output of our analyst team. Today's Research Daily features new research reports on 16 major stocks, including AstraZeneca (AZN), Union Pacific (UNP) and Altria Group (MO). These research reports have been hand-picked from the roughly 70 reports published by our analyst team today.
AstraZeneca shares have outperformed the Zacks Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry over the past year (+28.6% vs. +12.7%). The Zacks analyst believes that AstraZeneca’s products like Nexium, Crestor and Seroquel are facing generic competition, which is hurting sales.
The diabetes franchise also faces stiff competition while pricing pressure is hurting sales in the respiratory unit. Also, the coronavirus outbreak may hurt its profits in 2020. Nonetheless, AstraZeneca’s newer drugs, mainly cancer medicines Lynparza, Tagrisso and Imfinzi, should keep driving revenues in 2020.
Its pipeline is strong with abundance of pipeline catalysts lined up for 2020. Several launches are underway across each of the therapeutic areas. Cost-cutting efforts should drive earnings. The company has a mixed record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters. Estimates have gone up ahead of Q2 earnings release.
Shares of Union Pacific have lost -3% over the three six months against the Zacks Rail industry’s fall of -5.4%. The Zacks analyst is pleased by the company's efforts toward promoting safety and enhancing productivity.
Union Pacific is suffering a dismal freight revenue scenario (down 14% in first-half 2020). Freight revenues are being hurt, mainly by coronavirus-induced depressed volumes (down 13% in first-half 2020). Weakness in the Bulk, Premium and Industrial units weighed on the overall volume picture. Overall volumes are likely to decline around 10% in the current year. Deterioration in the debt-to-EBITDA ratio is an added woe.
However, efforts to control costs, courtesy of the precision scheduled railroading model, are a positive, particularly, in the wake of revenue concerns. Mainly owing to cost-cutting efforts, operating ratio is predicted to improve in 2020. The company's ability to generate free cash flow (up 58.9% in first-half 2020) is also a boon. Further, the uptick in e-commerce demand during the pandemic is encouraging.
Altria shares have gained +6.2% over the past six months against the Zacks Tobacco industry’s rise of +1.6%. The Zacks analyst believes that the company has been benefiting from its pricing strategy, which boosted adjusted OCI in smokeable and oral tobacco product units in the second quarter of 2020.
This, in turn, aided the bottom line, which beat the consensus mark in the quarter. Also, the quarter depicted strength in the oral tobacco products segment, which is poised to gain on expansions in IQOS and on!
However, Altria’s revenues were hurt by the smokeable product unit’s softness due to low domestic cigarette shipment volumes. Cigarette volumes have long been affected by stern regulations and rising health awareness. Altria still expects domestic cigarette industry volumes to decline in 2020 at a lower rate, thanks to better year-to-date industry trends and anticipations of continued resilience.
Other noteworthy reports we are featuring today include SAP SE (SAP), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) and Uber Technologies (UBER).
Today's Best Stocks from Zacks
Would you like to see the updated picks from our best market-beating strategies? From 2017 through 2019, while the S&P 500 gained an impressive +53.6%, five of our strategies returned +65.8%, +97.1%, +118.0%, +175.7% and even +186.7%.
This outperformance has not just been a recent phenomenon. From 2000 – 2019, while the S&P averaged +6.0% per year, our top strategies averaged up to +54.7% per year.
Director of Research
Note: Sheraz Mian heads the Zacks Equity Research department and is a well-regarded expert of aggregate earnings. He is frequently quoted in the print and electronic media and publishes the weekly Earnings Trends and Earnings Preview reports. If you want an email notification each time Sheraz publishes a new article, please click here>>>