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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines Group, United Continental Holdings and Coca-Cola

CHICAGO, Aug. 18, 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 Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV-Free Report), Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE:DAL-Free Report), American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq:AAL-Free Report), United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL-Free Report) and Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO-Free Report).

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

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Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Southwest (LUV) Extending into Mexico

As announced earlier, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV-Free Report) is expanding its service to Cancun and Los Cabos in Mexico after debuting in international skies last month. The flight adds to the newly launched services from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando to Oranjestad, Aruba and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Southwest Airlines will now operate daily service between Santa Ana, CA and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabos Mexico along with another one from Atlanta/Baltimore to Cancun. A Saturday only service between Cancun and Mexico will be launched on Aug 16, 2014. Additionally, flights to Mexico City and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic will be started from Nov 2.

The new destinations will be accretive to Southwest's international operation as maximum U.S. visitors fly to Los Cabos as a popular tourist destination from California. On the other hand, Mexicans comprise a large chunk of the tourist population traveling to Southern California. We believe such passengers will benefit immensely from Southwest Airlines' low fare base.

After operating for several decades within the U.S. domestic market, Southwest Airlines inaugurated its international services in Jul 2014. The carrier has come a long way since it started operations four decades ago. Having established itself as a top domestic carrier, the company now plans to flag off international flights from nine U.S. cities by the end of 2014.

At the moment, however, international services will have only a modest contribution in Southwest Airlines' overall performance. In this regard, the carrier will naturally lag behind larger rivals like Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE:DAL-Free Report), American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq:AAL-Free Report) and United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL-Free Report), which boast strong international operations.

Through this expansion Southwest Airlines is technically taking over the operations of its subsidiary AirTran, which flies to the Caribbean. However, Southwest Airlines' international service is here to stay for good as the carrier plans to add 50 international routes going forward. We believe the carrier should gain from its competitively priced low fares as compared to its traditional rivals.

Southwest Airlines currently carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Can Coke (KO) Keep Momentum in the Second Half?

On Aug 15, 2014, we issued an updated research report on The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO-Free Report).

Coca-Cola posted mixed results for the second quarter of 2014, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings but slightly missing the same for revenues. Earnings of 64 cents per share increased 1% year over year driven by improved sparkling beverage volumes, price/mix gains, strong international volumes and better gross margins which made up for higher commodity and marketing costs. Organic revenues grew 3% driven by better volumes.

However, what caught investors' attention was an improvement in the volumes of Coca-Cola's sparkling beverages, especially its namesake brand.

These carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) have been seeing declining sales trends for the past few quarters due to category headwinds. Growing health and wellness consciousness — consumers are particularly vigilant about the use of artificial sweeteners, high sugar content and related obesity concerns —, new taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and growing regulatory pressures have been affecting CSD sales of all major soft drink makers

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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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