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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:China Southern Airlines, China Petroleum and Chemical, Baidu, Actavis and Forest Laboratories

CHICAGO, April 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (NYSE:ZNH-Free Report), China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (NYSE:SNP-Free Report), Baidu, Inc. (Nasdaq:BIDU-Free Report), Actavis plc (NYSE:ACT-Free Report) and Forest Laboratories Inc. (NYSE:FRX-Free Report).

Zacks Investment Research, Inc., www.zacks.com.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

China Economy and Markets Report

Chinese markets continued their positive run following a rally by property developers who anticipated easing of restrictions by the government. A report in the Shanghai Securities News indicated such regulations would be eased in certain cities.

A fall in industrial profit growth dragged stocks last Thursday while markets moved lower ahead of key manufacturing data on Monday. PMI numbers were indeed disappointing, increasing speculation of government intervention.

Last Week's Developments

A reduction in industrial profit growth and an increase in money market rates dragged stocks lower last Thursday. Consequently, the Shanghai Composite Index experienced its largest loss in a week, losing 0.8% by the close. The index has lost 3.3% till date this year, following concerns that a slowdown will reduce profits and a resumption of IPOs will redirect funds.

Industrial profits increased 9.4% during January and February this year. This was lower than 12.2% growth registered in December. The CSI 300 Index fell 0.7%, with nine of its 10 industrial groups declining. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index gained 0.3%.  

Stocks returned to their winning ways on Friday after larger profits from banks and automakers dispelled concerns that growth was declining. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index increased 1.3% to close above 10,000, the first time in nearly six weeks.

The index gained 6.1% over the week, the highest increase since vital reforms were announced in November last year. The Hang Seng moved up 1.1% while the Shanghai Composite Index slipped by 0.2%. The CSI 300 Index declined 0.2% after gains by automakers failed to negate losses by small cap and tech stocks.

Markets and the Economy This Week

Markets took losses on Monday after industrial and consumer discretionary stocks declined ahead of the release of manufacturing data the next day. The Shanghai Composite Index declined for the fourth consecutive day, losing 0.4%.

The Shanghai Composite declined 1.1% last month resulting in a quarterly loss of 3.9%, the largest since June last year. Monthly losses were a result of the collapse of a private developer and fears that a resumption of IPOs will redirect funds. The CSI 300 dipped 0.3%, taking its quarterly loss to 7.9%. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index increased 0.7% to gain 1.9% over March.

Infrastructure and property related companies rallied on Tuesday, following affirmative government action. The Chinese government has relaxed funding regulations for financial companies and increased the pace of construction projects.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7% while the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 0.1%, reversing four consecutive days of gains. The CSI 300 Index moved up 0.8%. The Bloomberg China-US Equity Index, a gauge of the most heavily traded Chinese stocks in the U.S. gained for a third consecutive day. This index has now reduced its quarterly decline to 6.5%.

The official Purchasing Managers' Index improved marginally, rising from 50.2 recorded in February to 50.3. This was above the key level of 50, a reading below which indicates contraction. However, the final reading of the HSBC PMI declined from 48.5 in February to 48 in March. This was the lowest figure recorded since July. There are clear indications of weakness in the economy and swift government action is expected.

The property developers rally continued on Wednesday following speculation that the government will ease restrictions on housing. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6% and the CSI 300 Index moved up 0.8%. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index declined 0.7%.

A report in the Shanghai Securities News said certain Chinese cities were considering relaxing norms on home purchases. Consequently, a measure of developers within the Shanghai index registered a substantial 3.2% increase, the highest among the five industry groups.

Stocks in the News

China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. (NYSE:ZNH-Free Report)experienced a 24% decline in net profit during 2013. Disappointing results are attributable to intense competition and the current economic situation.  Another reason for such results is the country's large and rapidly expanding high speed railways network.

Operating profit of the largest domestic carrier by fleet size declined 70%. Net profit came in at 1.99 billion yuan ($321 million), significantly lower than last year's figure of 2.62 billion yuan. Revenue declined by 1% to 98.55 billion yuan

China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (NYSE:SNP-Free Report), also known as Sinopec, has raised $5 billion from the largest issue of dollar-denominated notes made by an Asian issuer in more than 10 years. Sinopec issued notes with maturity periods of three, five and 10 years. 70% of the three years fixed rate notes were purchased by U.S. investors.

In another development, Sinopec intends to start producing from the Yuanba sour gas field in China's south western Sichuan province by the end of 2014. The Chinese oil production giant will use its own technology to tap resources from the Yuanba field.

Baidu, Inc. (Nasdaq:BIDU-Free Report) has successfully argued a U.S. lawsuit filed by pro-democracy activists. The plaintiffs had alleged that censorship by the website at the behest of China's government was in violation of rights as ensured by the First Amendment. However, according to the decision made by U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman: "The First Amendment protects Baidu's right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs' rights to advocate for democracy."

Dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Furman said the search engine's "editorial judgment" was comparable to that of a newspaper's editor who takes a call on which articles are to be published. The lawyer for the plaintiffs said his clients will appeal.

Actavis Gets Slight Boost from Silom Acquisition

Actavis plc's (NYSE:ACT-Free Report) shares gained 1.64% immediately after the company announced that it has acquired Thailand-based generic company, Silom Medical Company for approximately $100 million in cash. Although shares were down slightly (0.22%) in the subsequent trading session, overall shares were up 1.42% following the announcement.

With this acquisition, Actavis is now among the top-five players in the Thai generic pharmaceutical market. This acquisition will also help Actavis expand further in the Southeast Asian region. With Silom's diverse product portfolio, Actavis expects this acquisition to be immediately accretive to 2014 earnings.

Our Take

Actavis has been in an acquisition spree of late. Acquisitions over the past two years include that of the Actavis Group in Oct 2012 and Warner Chilcott in Oct 2013.

In Feb 2014, Actavis announced its intention to acquire Forest Laboratories Inc. (NYSE:FRX-Free Report) for a cash and equity combination of $25 billion. This acquisition will help Actavis generate sales of more than $15 billion per year and create a well-diversified portfolio for the company.

The Forest Labs acquisition will push up Actavis' branded products revenues to 50% of total combined revenues from the current level of 30% of the standalone company's revenues. The acquisition will also bring about significant synergies and boost the bottom line. The deal is slated to close in mid-2014.

Meanwhile, Actavis completed the divestiture of its generics commercial operations in certain markets (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands) in Western Europe to Aurobindo Pharma Ltd.

Actavis carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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