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Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: Alkermes, China Life Insurance, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Jack in the Box

CHICAGO, Jan. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Equity Research highlights Alkermes (Nasdaq:ALKS) as the Bull of the Day and China Life Insurance (NYSE:LFC) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE:CMG), Panera Bread Co. (Nasdaq:PNRA) and Jack in the Box Inc. (Nasdaq:JACK).

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Full analysis of all these stocks is available at http://at.zacks.com/?id=2678.

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

We are impressed by the expanded product portfolio at Alkermes (Nasdaq:ALKS) following its purchase of Elan's EDT unit. The company continues to expect adjusted earnings per share in the range of $0.88-$1.02 for fiscal 2013. Revenues are still projected in the range of $510-$540 million.

The US approval of type II diabetes drug Bydureon is a major positive for Alkermes as the drug offers significant commercial potential. We are also pleased by the diversified pipeline at Alkermes. The successful development and commercialization of these candidates should boost the company's top line.

We believe that the current price represents an attractive entry point for long-term investors and hence upgrade the stock to Outperform. Our price target of $27.00 is based on 6.8x our fiscal 2013 revenue estimate.

Bear of the Day:

We are downgrading our recommendation on China Life Insurance (NYSE:LFC) to Underperform based on the constant decline in operating cash flow, which is affecting the financials. The gradual decline in premiums and increasing competition on the domestic front are the other downsides.

The company also faces substantial interest rate and currency risks, which limit upside. China Life also reported a net loss in the third quarter, due to a surge in operating expenses, which offset the operating income increases.

The company has a strong brand name, an extensive domestic distribution channel, strong investments and stable ratings. However, our six-month target price of $46.00 equates to 48.4x our earnings estimate for 2012. Combined with the $0.55 per ADR annual dividend, this target price implies an expected negative return of 9.4% over that period.

Latest Posts on the Zacks Analyst Blog:

Chipotle to Cater Beyond Stores

In order to counter sluggish same-store sales performance in a cutthroat environment, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE:CMG) is banking on a new sales generating initiative. This Denver-based company will start its catering service in its home court Colorado beginning Jan 21 and expand it across the nation in due course.

Basically, management intends to capitalize on the reputation of Chipotle's products by offering an off-premise service. The service will allow groups of 20 to 200 guests to select meals as per their own preference as they do at Chipotle restaurants. This initiative will make Chipotle go beyond its outlets and cater to its customers in their homes, schools and offices, which will further enhance the company's presence.

Although Chipotle's fourth quarter 2012 revenue is expected to increase 17.2% year over year, of late, the company has been reeling under comps pressure. Its same-store sales gain of 4.8% during the third quarter marked a 650 basis points (bps) downfall year over year and 320 bps sequentially. For the fourth quarter, Chipotle is likely to post 3.8% comps growth, which will again be a sequential decline of 100 bps.

Apart from launching a catering service, Chipotle will also test a new vegetarian offering called Sofritas in San Francisco Bay Area next month. If successful in its test run, the product will be rolled out in additional markets.

Chipotle's innovative offerings always distinguish it from its peers. It already has its 'Food With Integrity Program' in store that focuses on a higher mix of naturally raised pork, chicken and beef, and organic produce. It is the only national restaurant company to use fresh produce since 2008.

However, as far as catering is concerned, Chipotle is not the only company to use this as an incremental sales driver. One of its close peers

Panera Bread Co.

(Nasdaq:

PNRA

) is benefiting largely from this initiative. Panera's catering business has expanded about 20% over the past 10 years, which is anticipated to witness a further boost from the convenient online ordering option.

There is also Jack in the Box Inc.'s (Nasdaq:JACK) Qdoba Mexican Grill chain that offers catering services. We believe, like some of its industry equivalents, catering will prove to be a strong growth driver for Chipotle in the years to come. Chipotle currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to http://at.zacks.com/?id=2649.

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

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.

About the Analyst Blog

Updated throughout every trading day, the Analyst Blog provides analysis from Zacks Equity Research about the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous analyst coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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