CHICAGO, Jan. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Equity Research highlights UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) as the Bull of the Day and NII Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: NIHD) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Wendy's (Nasdaq: WEN) andWolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW).
UnitedHealth Group's (NYSE: UNH) fourth-quarter 2011 earnings came in substantially ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate, led by strong revenue growth from the UnitedHealthcare and Optum businesses, partially offset by higher medical costs. The company ended the year 2011 with better performances in virtually every meaningful metric: membership, revenues, MLR, operating margins and cash flow.
The company strengthened its key capabilities to respond to the emerging growth opportunities. These initiatives has been taken to expand its Medicaid and Medicare business and for growing the health service business.
Though certain headwinds such as high unemployment, growing medical cost, pressure from Health Care overhaul, etc. remains, we believe the company will beat the odds given its diversified business model with leading market share positions in the Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid markets. A solid balance sheet and a highly conservative investment portfolio will further help it to outperform its peers.
We have downgraded our recommendation on NII Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: NIHD) to Underperform backed by our assessment that the company s nightmare will continue in the near future. NII Holdings reported dismal financial results for the third quarter of 2011. Both the top line and bottom line were well below the Zacks Consensus Estimates.
Management has slashed its fiscal 2011 financial outlook, mainly driven by the volatile macro-economic condition coupled with significant depreciation of several Latin American currencies in comparison with U.S. dollars. Moreover, stiff competitive scenarios in Latin American markets are other impediments for such a reduced outlook.
We believe intensifying competition and increased promotional expenses may reduce the company's near-term growth opportunities. We do not find any immediate catalysts and expect NII Holdings to report weak financial results for the company's 4th quarter.
The economic calendar is full of market-moving reports this week, with Friday's non-farm payroll report for January keeping the labor market in focus. Despite adjustments, seasonal distortions could move the Friday jobs numbers in either direction, but the overall trend on the labor market front remains favorable. We will get a preview of the Friday release through ADP's report on Wednesday, while the weekly Jobless Claims data come out this Thursday.
We will also be getting the ISM readings this week, with the manufacturing report coming out on Wednesday and the service sector survey on Friday. The Chicago PMI, which has an excellent track record of foretelling the manufacturing ISM survey, comes out on Tuesday. Other major reports include the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence reading on Tuesday, the Construction Spending report on Wednesday, and the fourth quarter productivity numbers on Thursday.
The earnings reporting season this quarter has been weaker than what we have been experiencing in recent quarters, though the growth numbers did improve a bit last week. The year-over-year growth rate thus far is roughly half of the roughly 14% at this stage in the third quarter, with most of the growth coming from revenue gains.
There aren't that many earnings reports on the docket today. Wendy's (Nasdaq: WEN) met earnings expectations on modestly better-than-expected revenue results. Wolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW), the maker of outdoor shoes, came ahead of earnings expectations, though the company modestly missed revenue expectations and guided lower for 2012.
Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next 3-6 months.
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