Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: UniFirst, Acuity Brands, CVS Caremark, Walgreens and Express Scripts

Jan 25, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Equity Research highlights UniFirst Corporation (NYSE: UNF) as the Bull of the Day and Acuity Brands, Inc. (NYSE: AYI) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS), Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) and Express Scripts (Nasdaq: ESRX).


Full analysis of all these stocks is available at

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

A lower unemployment rate means higher profits for uniform provider UniFirst Corporation (NYSE: UNF). The company's revenues are directly impacted by the number of workers employed by its customers, so as the unemployment slowly but surely declines, UniFirst should continue to see solid organic top-line growth.

The company recently delivered its 7th consecutive positive earnings surprise, and management raised its guidance for 2013. This prompted analysts to revise their estimates significantly higher for both this year and next, driving the stock to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock.

UniFirst Corporation provides workplace uniforms and protective clothing to all types and sizes of businesses in the United States. The company serves over 240,000 customer locations throughout North America, Canada and Europe. It was founded in 1936 and has a market cap of $1.6 billion.

Bear of the Day:

Acuity Brands, Inc. (NYSE: AYI), which provides lighting solutions for both indoor and outdoor applications, delivered disappointing results for its fiscal 2013 first quarter on January 8. Both sales and earnings per share came in well below the Zacks Consensus Estimates for the quarter, prompting a flurry of negative estimate revisions. It is a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) stock.

First quarter net sales came in at $481.1 million, well short of the $502.0 million consensus. The adjusted gross profit margin contracted 40 basis points to 40.4%, due primarily to an increase in expenses associated with new product introductions and higher manufacturing costs. Adjusted EPS declined slightly to 69 cents, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 11 cents (14%). It was the company's second straight earnings miss.

Earnings estimates fell considerably for both 2013 and 2014 following the Q1 miss, sending the stock to a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). The 2013 Zacks Consensus Estimate is now $3.24, down from $3.51 thirty days ago. The 2014 consensus is currently $3.95, down from $4.15 over the same period. The Zacks Industry Rank, which is based on the Zacks Rank, isn't very encouraging either. The 'Building Products-Lighting FX' industry ranks in the bottom 3% of all industries (259 out of 265).

Latest Posts on the Zacks Analyst Blog:

CVS Soars to New High

Shares of CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) reached a new 52-week high of $52.63 on Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013. The stock continues to edge past resistance levels, beating its previous 52-week high of $52.42 attained on Jan 17, 2013.

With a solid one-year return of 29.1% and a track-record of posting in-line or higher quarterly earnings, this integrated pharmacy service provider offers an attractive investment opportunity.

The Stock Driver

A profound mix of favorable industry dynamics, solid guidance for 2013, benefits from the retention of Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) customers from the earlier Walgreens-Express Scripts (Nasdaq: ESRX) impasse and increasing shareholder value are driving CVS Caremark. Further, management asserts that the company has exceeded its financial goals for 2012.

With the worst flu season in a decade in the U.S., the rising demand for vaccines at the largest provider of prescription and related health care services is a lucrative opportunity to garner incremental revenues. Further, demographic tailwinds should drive utilization rates in the domestic market.

Notably, the introduction of generics in the pharmaceutical industry has increased profitability at CVS Caremark. The company envisages an upsurge in profitability for 2013 on the back of the generic wave.

CVS Caremark's retail segment benefited from the recent fallout between Walgreens and Express Scripts. The company witnessed a record share gain in the recent past with 24 million script wins in 2012. Despite the resolution of the impasse, management commentary of retaining 60% of the prescription volumes gained from the stalemate of these stalwarts is encouraging.

In the interim, CVS Caremark continues to reward its shareholders via dividends and share repurchases. The company plans to increase its dividend payout ratio to 25% (currently 21%) in 2013 and 30% through 2015.

In light of these facts, CVS Caremark envisages adjusted earnings per share of $3.84 to $3.98 for 2013, reflecting year-over-year growth in the band of 13.25% and 17.25%. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.91 is the midpoint of the company's forecast.

The estimate revision trend reflects a bullish sentiment towards CVS Caremark for 2013. The upward revision in Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 over the last 60 days depicts ample positive driving events.

Accordingly, the stock carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to

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