The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Ford Motor, Avis Budget, Costco Wholesale, Cardtronics and comScore

Sep 18, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Sept. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 the Ford Motor Co.'s (NYSE: F-Free Report), Avis Budget Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: CAR-Free Report), Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq: COST-Free Report), Cardtronics Inc. (Nasdaq: CATM-Free Report)) and comScore, Inc. (Nasdaq: SCOR-Free Report).


Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

Ford's EcoBoost Gains Popularity

Ford Motor Co.'s (NYSE: F-Free Report) EcoBoost engine have caught the fancy of consumers, thus driving demand. As a result, the company recently announced crossing the milestone of manufacturing 2 million of these fuel-saving engines. The automaker presently produces over 100,000 engines per month on an average, a 54% surge from 65,000 produced in 2012.

Ford EcoBoost promises fuel efficiency, which perhaps is what most consumers look for. According to EPA's fuel economy estimates, 2013 F-150 2WD with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine will result in annual fuel expenditure of $3,000, whereas a 2009 Ford F-150 2WD with a 5.4-liter V8 engine requires a spending of $3,400 annually.

EcoBoost technology offers turbocharging, direct injection and variable valve timing. Ford EcoBoost engines, which are also smaller in size, offer 20% more fuel efficiency compared to the larger-displacement gasoline engines. The EcoBoost engine are now available in 1.0-liter three-cylinder; 1.5-liter, 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder; and 3.5-liter V6 versions.

Greater acceptance of EcoBoost technology will boost the demand of Ford's EcoBoost-powered vehicles. The company recently started manufacturing the Ford Escape powered by EcoBoost – a 2.0-liter unit – at its Louisville, KY plant.

EcoBoost technology is broadly accepted in North America. Around 90% of Ford Escape features a 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and 50% of customers buying Fusion select one of the three EcoBoost engines – 1.5-liter, 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter. Moreover, the company sold 42% of F-150 trucks equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost.

Ford expects that 90% of its vehicle available in North America will be featuring EcoBoost technology in 2013 and it will go up to 95% in 2015. The automaker is also investing about $200 million to produce 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines at its Cleveland, Ohio plant.

The company will be launching the new 2014 Ford Fiesta later this year. It will be the first vehicle available in the U.S with the 1.0-liter engine, and is expected to be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car in the U.S.

Avis Budget to Tie-In with Costco

Recently, Avis Budget Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: CAR-Free Report) entered into a multi-year deal with Costco Travel. As per the deal, more than 45 million Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq: COST-Free Report) members across the U.S. will be provided with savings on vehicle rentals and supplementary products from Avis Car Rental and Budget Car Rental.

Further, the Costco members will continue to enjoy the benefits of booking Avis and Budget reservations through Costco's toll-free member phone number and authorized website. Moreover, Costco's 450 stores in the U.S. will showcase the car rental brands across email marketing campaigns and in-store signage.

The above-mentioned partnership will expectedly benefit both Avis Budget and Costco Travel. For Avis Budget, the tie-up will facilitate the increase of its customer base and aid in top-line growth as well. For Costco, the deal will help in providing its members high quality services and enhanced savings through Avis Budget.

We see strong U.S. demand for Avis Budget as travel volumes continue to do well. A rise in traveling for both leisure and business purposes and a projection of sustainability of this trend lead us to expect this partnership, along with the earlier acquisition of Avis Europe, to enhance Avis Budget's operational foothold in the global market.

Avis Budget is a leading provider of vehicle rental services. The company is seeking to boost revenues and hence, aggressively expanding its operations through acquisitions and joint ventures. Some of the company's recent acquisitions include Payless Car Rental (in Jul 2013) and Zipcar Inc. (in Mar 2013).

However, the prevalent sluggish economic scenario in both Europe and Australia, along with rising fleet costs remains a drag on the Avis Budget's bottom-line performance. With the company lowering it outlook for fiscal 2013, it now carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). Hence, we would prefer to avoid Avis Budget until there are signs of improvement.

Meanwhile, other stocks that are worth a look include Cardtronics Inc. (Nasdaq: CATM-Free Report)) and comScore, Inc. (Nasdaq: SCOR-Free Report). Both carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

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