J.P. Morgan reiterates buy on Darden Restaurants (DRI) and raised the price target to $33.
Analyst John Ivankoe says October comparison sales are significantly above expectations. Most impressively, Red Lobster is up 7%-8% vs. very difficult comparisons from a year ago, with traffic up 7%. Olive Garden was also strong, with traffic up 2%-3%. Therefore, he raised Q2 comparison expectations from 1.5% to 4% for Red Lobster, and 1.5% to 3% for Olive Garden. He also raised his $0.25 Q2 EPS estimate to $0.27. From a risk/reward perspective, he views Darden as a stock with near-term upside as the company has continually beat comparsion expectations in the current difficult economic environment.