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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Visa, Chevron and Altria

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – February 7, 2018 – 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 Apple (AAPL - Free Report) , Visa (V - Free Report) , Chevron (CVX - Free Report) and Altria (MO - Free Report) .

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Top Analyst Reports for Apple, Visa, Chevron and More

The Zacks Research Daily presents the best research output of our analyst team. Today's Research Daily features new research reports on 17 major stocks, including Apple, Visa, Chevron and Altria. These research reports have been hand-picked from the roughly 70 reports published by our analyst team today.

Apple’s shares are up +20.1% over the last one year, outperforming the S&P 500 (up +16.1%) and in line with the Zacks Technology sector (up +20.1%). Apple reported strong earnings and top-line growth in first-quarter 2018. The company’s top-line growth benefited from iPhone X’s higher average selling price (ASP), which offset sluggish unit sales growth. Paid subscriber base grew in the Services segment, which reflected strength in portfolio.

Going forward, the Zacks analyst thinks Apple’s foray into fast-growing technologies like autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI) & AR/VR will drive growth in the long haul. Moreover, Apple’s new investment plan will boost its subscription-based services business and put an end to the criticism it is facing for not creating enough jobs in the United States. However, sluggish demand for iPhone X remains a concern amid intensifying competition from cheaper Chinese handset-makers.

Shares of Buy-rated Visa have marginally outperformed the Zacks Financial Transaction Services industry over the last one year (+35.5% vs. +34.9%). Visa’s first-quarter fiscal 2018 results beat earnings estimates and were up year over year. Growth of key business drivers, payments volume, cross model volume and process transactions remained strong and stable across the globe.

Numerous strategic acquisitions and alliances, technology upgrades and effective marketing have paved the way for the company's long-term growth that have led to consistent revenue growth over the past several years. Visa is well poised to gain from the growing electronic payment processing and strong international business. A solid balance sheet ensures effective capital deployment.

The stock has seen the Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings revised 3.1% upward over the last seven days. Nevertheless, high client incentives, forex volatility are some of the headwinds.

Chevron’s shares have risen +2.6% in the past six months, underperforming the Zacks Integrated Oil industry's +7.7%, despite being a beneficiary of the recovery in commodity prices. In particular, the stock slumped more than 5% after missing fourth-quarter estimates badly. Nevertheless, Chevron saw strong profit growth in its upstream unit on better price realizations.

More importantly, Chevron was able to bolster its cash from operations -- something investors really want right now. The improving cash position allowed the company to raise its dividend by almost 4%. However, the Zacks analyst remains worried over disappointing earnings in Chevron's international refining business, while signs of headwinds in U.S. production pose additional risk. Hence, investors are advised to wait for a better entry point before buying shares in the oil major.

Shares of Buy-rated Altria have outperformed the Zacks Tobacco industry in the last six months (+0.1% vs. -6.4%), aided by expansion in the smokeless products category. Altria has been progressing well with expansion in the smokeless products category, which has helped it surpass the industry in the past six months.

Notably, the company’s flagship MarkTen brand is now a leading U.S. e-vapor brand, with a substantial retail market share. These factors fueled Altria’s smokeless product revenue in fourth-quarter 2017, wherein earnings kept its stellar year-over-year growth trend intact. Results were backed by solid pricing, higher OCI and lower tax rates, stemming from recent tax reforms.

However, rising health consciousness and stern government regulations to curb tobacco consumption has been hurting cigarette volumes and denting Altria’s top line for quite some time. Moreover, the Wine category remains sluggish due to stiff competition. Nonetheless, investments in key growth areas, efforts to lift Marlboro’s share and expected gains from tax reforms led to a robust earnings view.

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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 information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

In-Depth Zacks Research for the Tickers Above

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Visa Inc. (V) - free report >>

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