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Manulife head office in Toronto
Manulife head office in Toronto

Eye on Equities

TD upgrades Manulife to a 'buy' Add to ...

Manulife Financial Corp. shares have been drifting lower since early May alongside losses in the broader market. TD Newcrest analyst Doug Young believes it's time for investors to get back into the game.

He upgraded Manulife to a "buy" from a "hold" today, citing not only his "greater comfort" in the insurer's valuation after the recent pullback, but also new optimism fed by recent meetings with the company's U.S. management team.

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The U.S. division has been a point of considerable concern over the last few years, but he praised management's "well-articulated" strategy around how it plans to grow in the mutual fund and retirement businesses. "While we still have concerns with its exposure to long-term care insurance, management appears more confident that it can get the necessary price increase approvals to fix the economics of this business," Mr. Young said in a research note.

In terms of overall valuation, he notes Manulife is trading at 1.2 times book value, and 9.4 times his 2012 earnings per share forecast, and believes lower equity markets and interest rates are at least partially reflected in the stock price.

"While we still have a few concerns, we believe they are manageable and reflected in the company's valuation," he said.

Upside: Mr. Young maintained a 12-month target price of $18.50 on the stock.

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TD Newcrest analyst Paul D'Amico has upgraded Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. to "buy" from "hold," citing recent price weakness. While Mr. D'Amico does not think that Potash Corp.'s stock is at a floor, he does believe that its current price - down 8 per cent since late April - presents an "attractive risk/reward opportunity."

In addition, Mr. D'Amico believes that last week's U.S. Senate vote to end three decades of ethanol subsidies looks mostly 'symbolic' rather "than indicative of big near-term changes." There are fears that fertilizer-intensive corn crops will shrink without the subsidies, but he believes that in the long term, potash prices will not be materially affected.

Upside: Mr. D'Amico maintained a 12-month price target of $61 (U.S.)

Related: Corn fears make Potash Corp. a "buy"

Related: Soaring corn prices fuel hard times for ethanol makers

Related contentRelated: U.S. Senate votes to end ethanol subsidies

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Caterpillar Inc. shares have suffered a 20 per cent decline in the last six weeks, making for an attractive buying opportunity, said Theoni Pilarinos of Raymond James Ltd.

"While CAT's end-market demand is largely contingent upon global economic recovery, we believe the market has more than adjusted for the increased risks that have risen in the macroeconomic arena," he said.

Further, he believes the impact of a possible slowdown in product demand in China would be relatively limited, given that the country represents less than 10 per cent of its sales. And in the longer term, reduced demand in China could help alleviate growing pressures on the company's stretched supply chain, which is costing it market share in the country.

Upside: Mr. Pilarinos upgraded the stock to a "strong buy" - his highest rating - from "outperform." The price target was maintained at $135.

Related: Caterpillar profit leaps, hikes full-year outlook

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Canaccord Genuity analyst John Gerdes has resumed coverage of Denver-based independent oil and gas exploration company Cimarex Energy Co. with a "buy" rating.

Mr. Gerdes sees "potential for upside" as Cimarex fully exploits shale formations in the southern Delaware Basin and he praised the company for its "capital spending discipline."

"We believe the market is underappreciating the potential of the company's second and third Bone Spring Sands in the northern Delaware Basin," Mr. Gerdes said in predicting the potential value of Cimarex's oil wells in the southern United States.

Upside: Mr. Gerdes set a $110 price target.

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CIBC World Markets Inc. analyst Kevin Chiang believes the trucking sector is "on the upswing" and positioned for a sustainable recovery. While a driver shortage is a near-term issue, Mr. Chiang is optimistic, as "the capacity reduction will act as a positive catalyst for freight rates while increasing barriers to entry."

He added that CIBC believes that freight rates have bottomed and "are on the cusp of positive growth."

Upside: Mr. Chiang cited two ways for investors to enter the transportation sector: TransForce Inc. , which he gave a "sector outperformer" rating and $18.50 price target, and Contrans Group Inc. , with a "sector performer" rating and price target of $10.



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Follow Darcy Keith on Twitter for more of the latest analyst actions from the Street and exclusive investing news from The Globe and Mail.

Follow on Twitter: @eyeonequities

 
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