The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Marathon Petroleum and Marathon Oil

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Marathon
                          Petroleum and Marathon Oil

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Oct. 24, 2012

CHICAGO, Oct. 24, 2012 /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  Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL), Google
(Nasdaq:GOOG), Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT), Marathon Petroleum Corporation
(NYSE:MPC) and Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

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Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

Apple's New Gadgets Thrill… and Disappoint

Once again, I watched the live CNET video blog on Apple's (Nasdaq:AAPL) big
media event, which not-so-coincidentally was on the same day that Microsoft is
launching its new tablet, Surface.

Here were a few highlights oftoday's presentation by CEO Tim Cook and
marketing chief Phil Schiller...

5 million iPhone 5s sold in the opening weekend. Fastest-selling phone in
history.

3 million new iPod Touches sold

New 13" MacBook Pro is lighter, thinner, faster and has Retina display for
$1,699

iBooks now integrated with iCloud

New iMac Desktop is 80% thinner, replaces optical drive with hard drive and
comes in 21.5" and 27" sizes for $1,299 and $1,799

100 million iPads sold

More iPads sold in June quarter than all competitors' entire PC lines (not
combined)

2,500 US schools using iBooks textbooks

94% of Fortune 500 testing or deploying iPad usage

New 4th Gen iPad has 2X faster Apple chip (A6X) for same price as last iPad,
$499

New iPad Mini has 7.9 inch screen, 16G memory, and offers LTE cellular
capability, starting at $329 (w/ numerous configuration options, upgrades, and
price points)

3Battles Apple Could Lose, Starting Today

There were many things that grabbed the attention of tech critics and Apple
customers today, but I want to highlight 3 that hinge on competition from
Google (Nasdaq:GOOG)and Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT).

1) The new 4th-gen iPad comes only six months after the previous model. Many
customers on the blogs seem annoyed. While a natural consumer reaction, Is
this justified? Should the company hold back on innovation so people don't
have that unique sense of buyer's remorse that comes from disruptive
technologies? Or, are most people getting used to it by now?

2) Tim Cook made a point of noting the compatibility of Apple Desktop OS and
Mobile OS. The tech geeks on CNET (actually a great group to listen to for
these events) saw this as a direct shot addressing the competition, namely
Microsoft and their new Surface tablet. By the end of the event, all of them
felt that Apple offered few compelling reasons for consumers to ignore the
Surface, given the comparable pricing.

3) The new iPad Mini is about $80 more than the comparable Google Nexus. Is
that a good price point? Will it create Apple product cannibalization nestled
between glorified iPods (the Touch) and the 4th gen iPad? Or, will it simply
get ignored and fail to meet always-lofty expectations?

What did investors think?

In thehour or sobefore the start of the event, AAPL shares rallied hard from
the lows at $622 up above $630, even taking a few stabsat yesterday's close
($634) without success.

But when the slide of pricingschemes for the iPad Mini were shown, the stock
dropped hard and fast, trading from above $629 down to $622 in only 3 minutes
on over 800,000 shares. Then it fell to $616 a few minutes later on over 1
million shares.

Clearly, investors didn't like the iPad Mini pricing either.

Marathon Petroleum: A Solid Pick

We have maintained our Outperform recommendation on Findlay, Ohio-based
independent oil refiner and marketer Marathon Petroleum Corporation
(NYSE:MPC).

The company, in its current form, came into existence following the 2011
spin-off of Houston, Texas-based Marathon Oil Corporation's (NYSE:MRO)
refining/sales business into a separate, independent and publicly traded
entity. Marathon Petroleum operates in three segments: Refining and Marketing,
Speedway (Retail) and Pipeline Transportation.

It is the fifth largest domestic refiner with a combined crude oil processing
capacity of approximately 1,193,000 barrels per day through its portfolio of
six refineries. A major advantage for the company is its proprietary access to
pipelines, which inhibits lower-cost competitors from supplying Marathon
Petroleum's key markets.

Our bullish investment theme stems from Marathon Petroleum's scale advantage,
impressive asset quality, and an extensive midstream/retail network that
diversifies its portfolio and provides more stable revenue streams.

The company's financial flexibility and strong balance sheet are also real
assets in this highly uncertain economic period. Marathon Petroleum remains in
excellent financial health, with nearly $2 billion in cash/cash equivalents
and an investment-grade credit rating with a debt-to-capitalization ratio of
24%. Furthermore, an attractive dividend yield and the $2 billion share
buyback program – that commenced recently – highlight the company's commitment
to create value for shareholders.

Marathon Petroleum is almost through with its $2.2 billion Detroit Heavy Oil
Upgrading Project. Ongoing since 2008, the initiative – on budget and on
schedule – is expected to finish later this year. The completion of the
project will not only deliver an extra 80,000 barrels a day of heavy oil
processing capacity but also free up capital expenditures and boost the
company's free cash flow.

Marathon Petroleum is looking at strategic alternatives for some of its
pipeline assets, including the possible formation of a master limited
partnership by way of an initial public offering. We believe this potential
spin-off could further enhance the company's shareholder worth and valuation.

These factors, coupled with the relatively inexpensive valuation, make
Marathon Petroleum an attractive investment.

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