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Stocks  | August 29, 2019

Stocks are volatile these days – between trade wars and President Trump’s twitter habit, it seems there’s always something to push the markets around. Last Friday’s trading saw a sharp drop of 2.5% in the S&P 500, Monday gained some back, and yesterday’s session walked those gains back partway. How is an investor to know what to do?

One clear signal that a stock pick is a good one – the analyst upgrades. Wall Street’s analysts keep a close eye on their favored market sectors, rating stocks and then returning to them as market conditions change. And when they do, they may just upgrade a stock. That’s a sign for investors to take note. Here we look at three stocks which have gotten positive revisions in recent days.

Cronos Group, Inc. (CRON)

Cronos has had its troubles, like all of the companies emerging into the cannabis space. From working to establish supply and distribution chains, to dealing with the patchwork of legal statuses in the United States, to developing niches in recreational, medical, or pharmaceutical segments, the cannabis companies have had their hands full.

Despite all of that, Cronos Group has just received an upgrade to its status from 5-star analyst Matt Bottomley of Canaccord Genuity. Bottomley moved his rating on CRON from Sell to Hold, acknowledging that the company’s fiscal Q2 performance justifies the improved outlook. In the recently reported quarter, Cronos reported an impressive 202% increase in net revenues year-over-year, along with a 232% increase in the amount of product sold in the same time. Bottomley’s price target on the stock is C$17 (US$12.77), indicating room for a 15.9% upside.

At the same time Bottomley gave his upgrade, Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Lavery initiated coverage on CRON with a Buy rating. In support of his optimistic outlook, Lavery writes, “We expect Cronos to have modest near-term revenues from Canadian cannabis production, but believe it has significant potential growth opportunities with CBD products in the US…” His $18 price target shows confidence in a 63% upside for the stock.

Overall, Cronos has a Moderate Buy rating from the analyst consensus, based on 3 buys, 3 holds, and 1 sell given in the past three months. CRON shares are priced at $11.02, and the average price target, $22.50, suggests an upside potential of 104%.

Verizon Communications (VZ)

Verizon, like most of the big American telecom companies, is a descendant of the old Bell System that was broken up under anti-trust laws in the early 1980s. Today, the company is the second-largest wireless services provider in the US, with over 153 million customers, and the second-largest telecom by revenues.

The wireless industry, around the world, is in process of gearing up for the new 5G technology. Verizon finds itself well placed for the transition, having seen investors oversubscribe to a recent bond sale, giving the company plenty of ready cash to apply to 5G technology. The company’s recent fiscal Q2 report shows it in a strong position, with stable revenues, solid EPS, and robust subscriber growth. In the earnings report, CEO Hans Vestberg said, “Verizon made history this quarter by becoming the first carrier in the world to launch 5G mobility… we head into the second half of the year with great momentum.”

Verizon’s strong performance prompted 5-star Oppenheimer analyst Timothy Horan, on August 27, to upgrade his stance on VZ from Hold to Buy. In note on the upgrade, Horan said, “The company should be early and successful in its 5G network, and we expect it to pick up a lot of mid-band spectrum inexpensively next year. Its ARPU (average revenue per user) should continue growing, and strong cable wholesale growth is accretive.” Horan adds his belief that Verizon will make an “early and successful” switch to 5G. His price target on VZ, $70, is indicative of a 22% upside to the stock.

Verizon holds a Moderate Buy consensus rating, derived from an even split: 3 each holds and buys. Shares are priced at $57, and the $63 average price target implies a 11% upside for VZ.

Zynga, Inc. (ZNGA)

This video game company is best known as the creator of FarmVille, and its current hits include Zynga Poker and Words with Friends 2. Zynga currently boasts over 30 million monthly active users, a sure sign of success for a key metric in the social gaming industry.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter is impressed with Zynga’s performance, but more importantly, he is impressed with the company’s outlook and forward guidance. In line with his upbeat outlook, Pachter added Zynga to his ‘Best Ideas’ list, a designation that includes the firm’s top stock picks. His price target on Zynga stock, $9, reflects his bullish stance; it indicates a 57% upside potential. Pachter has an 86% success rate when recommending ZNGA.

Pachter sees two new games, Empires & Puzzles and Merge Dragons! with potential to beat expectations in the coming year, and he notes that Zynga has scheduled three more new releases before the end of 2019. says of the company’s prospects going forward, “Zynga's third-quarter guidance, which was mostly in-line with expectations, could prove to be conservative ahead of new game launches.” He added that, “[The new games] have the potential to drive significant upside to the Street’s expectations through 2021. We expect the shares to trade closer to our price target over the remainder of the year.”

Zynga has earned a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 buys and 1 hold from the last three months. Shares sell for $5.72, a bargain for such a bullish stock, and the average price target of $7.74 suggests an upside potential of 35%.

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