The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:State Auto Financial, Ventas, Moody's, Chesapeake Lodging Trust and Winthrop Realty Trust

   The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:State Auto Financial, Ventas, Moody's,
              Chesapeake Lodging Trust and Winthrop Realty Trust

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Aug. 8, 2013

CHICAGO, Aug. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ 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 State Auto Financial Corp.
(Nasdaq:STFC-Free Report), Ventas Inc. (NYSE:VTR-Free Report), Moody's
Corporation (NYSE:MCO-Free Report), Chesapeake Lodging Trust (NYSE:CHSP-Free
Report) and Winthrop Realty Trust (NYSE:FUR-Free Report).


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

Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

State Auto (STFC) Upped to Strong Buy from Hold

On Aug 6, 2013, Zacks Investment Research upgraded State Auto Financial Corp.
(Nasdaq:STFC-Free Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) from a Zacks Rank #3

Why the Upgrade?

State Auto Financial has been experiencing rising earnings estimates on the
back of improved second-quarter 2013 results. Moreover, the company's
strategic efforts to enhance its underwriting capabilities and coverage ratios
as well as healthy capital position have been impressive. Additionally, this
property-casualty insurer delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the
last 4 quarters with an average beat of 113.4%.

On Aug 1, State Auto Financial reported second-quarter 2013 operating earnings
of 13 cents per share, which rebounded from the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a
loss of 7 cents and year-ago quarter's loss of 18 cents per share.

Results were supported by 2% growth in premiums earned, which was more than
offset by 3.9% decline in net investment income, resulting in reduced total
revenue. However, lower catastrophe as well as loss and loss adjusted expenses
narrowed the underwriting loss, while improving the combined ratio, bottom
line and return on equity (ROE). Retention and new business also remained
stable amid price hikes.

State Auto Financial's strong brand name and strategy of growth through
diversification, technology upgrade and agency expansion complements well with
the recent industry price hikes and reinsurance programs. While catastrophe
losses and weak property-casualty market lay down business risks, healthy
risk-based capitalization and pricing initiatives as well as stable loss costs
should drive growth in the long run. The creditworthiness of State Auto
Financial also helps retain investor confidence in the stock.

Based on State Auto Financial's fundamental strength and capital management,
the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 jumped 9.2% to $1.07 per share in the
last 7 days. The estimate for 2014 is pegged at $1.37, up 7.0% in the last 7
days. Meanwhile, no downward revision in estimates was witnessed for both the

Rating Upgrade for Ventas

Ventas Inc. (NYSE:VTR-Free Report), a health care real estate investment trust
(REIT), received a rating upgrade from Moody's Investors Service, the rating
unit of Moody's Corporation (NYSE:MCO-Free Report). The company now enjoys a
senior unsecured debt rating of Baa1 that was raised from Baa2, with a stable

The uptick in the rating came on the back of Ventas's substantial increase in
unencumbered assets, adherence to a conservative balance sheet as well as
operational strength. Moreover, the rating agency acknowledged the company's
capacity to enhance its market position and simultaneously sustain a sound

The rating upgrade of Ventas is encouraging. In fact, this plays a major role
in preserving investor confidence in the stock and helps boost its
creditworthiness in the market.

In July, Ventas reported second-quarter 2013 normalized funds from operations
(FFO) per share of $1.01 that rose 6.3% year over year from 95 cents. Total
revenue during the quarter reached $685.8 million, escalating 12.1% year over

Ventas' results benefited from the strategic investments made in 2012. In
particular, the company experienced an increase in net operating income in its
private pay seniors housing communities, triple-net lease portfolio and
medical office building segment. Ventas has raised its outlook for full-year
2013, backed by its solid business model, strategic efforts and accretive

We believe that going forward, the company's diversified portfolio, strategic
acquisitions and decent balance sheet would provide the tempo for riding on
the growth trajectory. Yet, a large portion of its revenue originates from a
few tenants, which exposes it to concentration risk.

Ventas currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). The other REITs that are
performing well and deserve a look include Chesapeake Lodging Trust
(NYSE:CHSP-Free Report) and Winthrop Realty Trust (NYSE:FUR-Free Report), both
carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (strong Buy).

Note: FFO, a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs, is obtained
after adding depreciation and amortization and other non-cash expenses to net

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

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