What are the analysts thinking? Which stocks do they like and which do they hate? What do they see in the future? Here is a potpourri of current recommendations and comments from the men and women who study the companies and the stocks:
* Atlantic Research Corp. of Alexandria, long one of the most successful companies around the Beltway, has been recommended for "aggressive purchase" in high-risk accounts -- on both a short-term and long-term basis -- by Prudential Bache analysts Paul H. Nesbit and Byron K. Callan. That recommendation represents a slight uptick in ARC's short-term rating.
"We anticipate that earnings growth will average 27 percent annually over the coming 12 quarters and 19 percent on a forward-20 quarter basis," the analysts say. They also take a favorable view of ARC's forthcoming acquisition of Systematics General Corp. of Sterling, Va., which needs only SEC approval and a favorable vote from Systematics shareholders in October.
In the stock swap, Systematics General shareholders will get one share of Atlantic Research (Friday's close: $27.75) for each 2.5 shares of Systematics General (Friday's close: $10.375.)
* The attractiveness rating of USF&G Corp., a Baltimore-based insurance company, recently was dropped a notch by analyst Ernest G. Jacob of Drexel Burnham Lambert of New York. Jacob had earlier tagged USF&G as a "buy," but the shares did so well, the analyst changed his rating to "buy-hold." He did so, he says, "in order to signal that we would refrain from putting new money into the stock at its current price." The stock, then $36.50, closed Friday at $35.
"Although we continue to hold quite a positive long-term outlook for the company's shares," Jacob writes, "we view the stock as a bit expensive near-term." Jacob notes that USF&G is not as close to utilizing its tax losses as the two other insurance company he recommends, Chubb and Travelers, and therefore, "its share price is discounting a return that lies farther down the road." Looking down that road, Jacob says, he sees a possible share price of $61 in 1989 and a total annual return of 20 percent.
* Bassett Furniture of Bassett, Va., one of the largest manufacturers of wood furniture for bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms, is selling at $34.75 a share and having trouble with its earnings, reports May G. O'Leary, research analyst at Scott and Stringfellow in Richmond. O'Leary puts the blame on "the weak economy, the competitive pricing environment and the pressure from imports."
Second-quarter earnings came to 62 cents per share, compared with 92 cents a year ago. For the first six months, Bassett's earnings dropped off to $1.19 a share from $1.72 a share last year. Looking ahead, for the year that ends in November, O'Leary forecasts earnings of $2.70 to $2.75 a share, compared with $3.67 a share for the fiscal 1984. Bassett, which makes furniture in the low-to-medium price range, has had a more difficult time with earnings than some of the other Virginia furniture firms.
* In his July comments, analyst Joel H. Krasner of Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. offers an update on his appraisals of three Maryland stocks: Black & Decker Manufacturing Co., PHH Group Inc. and McCormick & Co. Inc.
Of Black & Decker, the tool manufacturer, whose fiscal 1985 earnings are expected to fall below those for 1984, Krasner says: "We continue to suggest that positions be held for recovery. Once retail order rates improve, earnings could begin to increase rather quickly. Until then, calls should be written as a vehicle to generate incremental income." Investment opinion: Hold. The stock closed Friday at $18.875 a share.
PHH Group, the auto leasing-employe relocation firm, recently increased its quarterly dividend by 13.6 percent to 25 cents a share, Krasner notes. "This represents more than a 21 percent compound annual rate of growth since 1980," he says. "Although the earnings outlook continues favorable, we suggest investors realize some profits as the stock rises into the mid-to-upper $30s." Opinion: Hold-okay to sell. The stock closed Friday at $36.25 a share, up 25 cents.
McCormick, the spice company, will see 1985 earnings fall below those for 1984, Krasner predicts. "Even though second-half results should improve over those of the year earlier," he says, "the shares remain virtually fully priced relative to estimated food-earnings prospects. The shares are only suitable for investors willing to speculate on a restructuring, a development we believe is likely to occur during the next two months." Opinion: Buy-Hold. McCormick stock closed Friday at $34.875.
* Owens & Minor (Friday's close: $22.75), a Richmond-based drug wholesaler and distributor of medical and surgical supplies, was recently rated an "excellent long-term investment" for risk-oriented investors by analyst John B. Hoffmann of Smith Barney. The company has distribution centers in 10 states, mostly in the South, and believes it has a dominant market share position in metropolitan Washington.
Hoffman points out that Owens & Minor has had a rather erratic earnings history, with net-income declines in three of the last six fiscal years and increases of 105 percent in 1983 and 21 percent in 1984. However, he says, future earnings may be steadier and the company's stock is relatively cheap, when compared with other companies in the industry.
Owens & Minor is selling for about 13 times his estimate of 1985 earnings, and at a modest premium to adjusted book value per share. Similar companies, Hoffman says, sell at multiples that are 25 to 30 percent higher and trade at twice their book value. One other risk: With only 2.5 million shares outstanding, Owens & Minor stock has a relatively small "float" -- the amount available for trading -- and that tends to increase volatility.
The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), which operates the over-the-counter market, will solve the space problems in its District headquarters by building a new $17.3 million operations center off Shady Grove Road in Rockville. The four-story building will house the 350 workers who run the computers that are the heart of the NASD market. About 175 others will remain in existing offices at 1735 K St. NW. The new building will be located in a 41-acre high-tech office park. Construction will begin this fall and NASD officials hope to move in by September 1986.
United Dominion Realty Trust of Richmond, which was formed by the merger last year of Realty Industries and Old Dominion Real Estate Investment Trust, has sold $23 million in $1,000 debentures (bonds) that pay 9 percent interest and are convertible to common stock at a price of $15.55. The trust invests in apartments and shopping centers and expects to use the proceeds for expansion. The trust is actively looking for new properties, reports Jim Dolphin, vice president for finance, but hasn't yet nailed down any deals. United Dominion stock is selling for $14, up 28.7 percent since Jan. 1.