Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Sell Sign?

I was just reading this Bloomberg News article posted on Dec 3rd 2007.

  • Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Anybody who followed the advice of Wall Street's top-ranked analysts, none of whom would say ``sell'' for a single company in the securities industry this year, is reckoning with subprime-like losses.

    Merrill Lynch & Co.'s Guy Moszkowski, UBS AG's Glenn Schorr and Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.'s Brad Hintz maintained either buy or hold recommendations on Bear Stearns Cos. as it fell 39 percent in 2007, the most since the firm went public in 1985. Moszkowski and Hintz had buy ratings on Morgan Stanley while the stock shed 22 percent in New York trading. Moszkowski and Schorr advised holding on to Citigroup Inc. as it dropped 40 percent.

WOW! No SELL recommendation?! And accordingly, here is why!

  • ``An analyst cannot issue a sell rating because he doesn't want to lose access,'' said Tom Larsen, a former Credit Suisse Group analyst who now runs research and helps oversee $6 billion at Somerville, New Jersey-based Harding Loevner Management LP. ``It's logistically cumbersome for the buy-side to arrange its own meetings with company management, so this concierge service is very useful.''
  • Instead of saying ``sell,'' analysts have stuck with ``hold'' ratings that are less likely to antagonize the senior executives they're monitoring, Larsen said. The ratio of hold recommendations has climbed to 48 percent this year from 40 percent in 2003, Bloomberg data show.
    While a ``hold'' might be enough to signal to institutional investors that a company is in decline, retail investors follow analyst recommendations literally, according to a study published in the Journal of Financial Economics in August.

And the article then highlights the recommendation made recently on Citigroup..

  • `Dead Wrong'

    Citigroup, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, was down more than 13 percent for the year when Deutsche Bank AG's Michael Mayo cut it to ``sell'' on Oct. 12. It fell 25 percent before Nov. 1, when Meredith Whitney at CIBC World Markets issued a sell rating that drove the stock down another 8 percent. Neither Mayo nor Whitney, both based in New York, responded to requests for interviews for this story.

    Goldman analyst William Tanona waited until Nov. 19 to downgrade Citigroup to ``sell.'' The stock has slipped 2 percent since the note was published. Tanona, based in New York, didn't respond to an interview request.

    The reductions by Whitney and Tanona probably were too late, said Harlow of Harlow Capital.

    ``I think if you look back in 18 months, these guys are going to be dead wrong,'' he said. ``They're going to have downgraded these stocks at almost the bottom of the cycle.''

Click here for the rest of the newsarticle: