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Jefferies Upgrades Vector Group to 'Hold'

Jefferies upgrades Vector Group (VGR) to hold from underperform.

Analyst Donald Trott says the upgrade is based on continuing evidence that company's Quest cigarette (a 3-step program to nicotine-free smoking that uses genetically altered nicotine-free tobacco) is gaining traction, as well as dramatic growth in sales of its flagship discount cigarette products. He notes interest rates have also declined, thereby strengthening the appeal of a 12.1% yield provided by the company's $1.60 per share annual cash dividend.

Trott narrowed his 19-cent second-quarter loss estimate to a 2-cent loss per share, and raised his 28-cent 2003 loss per share estimate to 5 cents in EPS. He set 57-cent 2004 EPS estimate.

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