Merrill Lynch downgraded United Parcel (UPS) and FedEx (FDX) to sell from neutral, and is keeping its sell rating on Airborne (ABF).
Analyst Ken Hoexter says he downgraded on a deteriorating global economic environment as the specter for war is stalling business investment. He also thinks earnings per share multiples, particularly United Parcel's, remain at historically high levels. Although the economic environment still is deteriorating, which might cause a reduction in volumes and further earnings per share multiple contraction, Hoexter thinks if the war starts soon (and is over quickly), the stock could get bounce in volume and share prices. Hoexter cut his $2.35 2003 earnings per share est. for United Parcel to $2.33; and cut the $2.75 fiscal 2003 (May) earnings per share for FedEx to $2.65; he trimmed the 75 cents 2003 earnings per share for Airborne to 68 cents.