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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:J. C. Penney, Prudential Financial, Hartford Financial Services Group, General Motors and

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:J. C. Penney, Prudential Financial, Hartford
     Financial Services Group, General Motors and Verizon Communications

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, May 14, 2013

CHICAGO, May 14, 2013 /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 J. C. Penney Company, Inc.
(NYSE:JCP), Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE:PRU), The Hartford Financial
Services Group, Inc. (NYSE:HIG), General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and Verizon
Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ).

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

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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

J.C. Penney Earnings Likely to Miss

J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) is slated to report its first-quarter
fiscal 2013 results on May 16, 2013. In the last quarter, it posted a negative
surprise of 926.3%. Let's see how things are shaping up for this announcement.

Factors This Past Quarter

J. C. Penney's earlier pricing and marketing strategy resulted from the
company's disappointing performance. Moreover, the company's restructuring
initiatives have been crumbling as the company is exhibiting no signs of
improvement.

J. C. Penney failed to obtain a positive response from customers for its
pricing mechanism, which is well reflected through its poor sales results. It
is believed that rather than harping on its restructuring efforts, the company
should have been more vocal regarding its pricing mechanism and better aligned
its marketing efforts to attract buyers.

Earnings Whispers?

Our proven model does not conclusively show that J. C. Penney is likely to
beat earnings this quarter. This is because a stock needs to have both a
positive Earnings ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method) and a Zacks
Rank #1, #2 or #3 for this to happen. This is not the case here as you will
see below.

Zacks ESP: ESP for J. C. Penney is 0.00%. This is because the Most Accurate
Estimate stands at -$1.13, which is in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell): J. C. Penney's Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) lowers
the predictive power of ESP because the Zacks Rank #5 when combined with 0.00%
ESP makes surprise prediction difficult. We caution against stocks with Zacks
Ranks #4 and #5 (Sell-rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement,
especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions momentum.

Rating Action for Prudential

A.M. Best Co. reiterated the issuer credit ratings (ICR) of 'a-' on Prudential
Financial, Inc. (NYSE:PRU). Concurrently, the rating agency reiterated the
financial strength rating (FSR) of A+ (Superior) and ICR of 'aa-' of the
domestic life/health insurance subsidiaries of Prudential. It also affirmed
the debt ratings. Outlook remains stable.

The rating affirmation came on the back of solid market presence, strong
operational performance in most of the business, potential for sustained
organic growth, sturdy risk-adjusted capitalization, and financial flexibility
and liquidity.

The rating also account for over $3.0 billion of junior subordinated debt
issuance as well as the acquisition of The Hartford Financial Services Group,
Inc.'s (NYSE:HIG) individual life block and two significant pension risk
transfer transactions. While the Hartford deal added nearly 0.7 million life
policies having face value of $135 billion and general account and separate
account assets and liabilities of nearly $12 billion, the pension risk
transfer transactions with General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) and Verizon
Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) added nearly $32 billion in liabilities for
Prudential.

A.M. Best noted that Prudential's diversified portfolio is represented by its
international exposure. While solid organic growth and the integration of
Star/Edison augmented the international life insurance segment's performance,
domestic business benefited from higher variable annuity liabilities with
automatic rebalancing features. Additionally, asset under management of
Prudential exceeded the $1 trillion mark.

Nevertheless, above average holdings of below investment grade fixed income
securities relative to capital and surplus, $2.2 billion investments in
subprime residential mortgage-backed securities and overall exposure to
commercial real estate via commercial mortgage-backed securities and direct
commercial loan portfolio dwarfs the positives. A.M Best noted that though
there remains considerable investment risk, credit impairments continue to
trend lower.

According to A.M. Best, life insurance business is a more proven line of
business than annuities. At the same time, it noted that Prudential not only
effectively managed but also to some extent mitigated inherent risks in its
various annuity products.

However, the ratings might be subject to downgrade if risk-adjusted
capitalization erodes, operating or investment results soften, or the usage of
leverage increases.

Prudential carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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