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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights Union Pacific, Freeport-McMoRan, Block, Xcel and Illumina

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – May 15, 2024 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Union Pacific Corporation (UNP - Free Report) , Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (FCX - Free Report) , Block, Inc. (SQ - Free Report) , Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL - Free Report) and Illumina, Inc. (ILMN - Free Report) .

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Top Research Reports for Union Pacific, FCX and Block

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 Union Pacific Corporation, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Block, Inc. These research reports have been hand-picked from the roughly 70 reports published by our analyst team today.

You can see all of today’s research reports here >>>

Union Pacific shares have outperformed the Zacks Transportation - Rail industry over the past year (+25.9% vs. +13.0%), reflecting a reputation for operating excellence and a track record of returning excess to shareholders through buybacks and an attractive dividend. The company bought back $0.7 billion worth of its won shares and paid dividends worth $3.2 billion in 2023.

Union Pacific's strong free cash flow generating ability supports its shareholder-friendly activities. On the flip side, a decline in volumes due to soft consumer markets and reduced fuel surcharge revenues is a concern. Volumes declined 1% year over year in 2023.

Given the soft freight market scenario, the revenue weakness is likely to persist going forward as well. This will hurt overall volumes. Operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of revenues) deteriorated 220 basis points in 2023 from the 2022 reading, mainly due to revenue weakness. Capital expenditures are expected to be $3.4 billion in 2024.

(You can read the full research report on Union Pacific here >>>)

Shares of Freeport-McMoRan have gained +46.1% over the past year against the Zacks Mining - Non Ferrous industry’s gain of +54.7%. The company is conducting exploration activities near existing mines to expand reserves. It is expected to gain from progress in exploration activities that will boost production capacity.

Freeport-McMoRan is executing a number of smelter projects in Indonesia. Freeport’s Lone Star project also provides additional upside. It is well-positioned to benefit from automotive electrification, which is a positive for copper as electric vehicles are copper-intensive. The company's efforts to reduce debt is also encouraging.

However, it faces headwinds from higher labor, energy and services costs. Weak copper volumes may also hurt performance in 2024. Sizable capital spending is likely to impact free cash flow generation.

(You can read the full research report on Freeport-McMoRan here >>>)

Block shares have underperformed the Zacks Technology Services industry over the year-to-date period (-9.8% vs. +13.0%). The company’s strength across Square and Cash App ecosystem contributed well. Strong growth in transaction and subscription revenues drove the results further. Robust performance of the company’s ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) platform remained positive.

Also, growing GPV owing to Square ecosystem momentum was another positive. Improvement in the card-present volumes remained a tailwind. Also, rising card-not-present GPV owing to robust online channels contributed well. Growing momentum in bitcoin space remained another positive.

However, increasing competitive pressure from PayPal and Shopify. Softness in consumer spending trends in food and drink and retail discretionary verticals, are headwinds.

(You can read the full research report on Block here >>>)

Other noteworthy reports we are featuring today include Xcel Energy Inc. and Illumina, Inc.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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