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J.P. Morgan Upgrades Cheesecake Factory to 'Neutral'

J.P. Morgan upgraded Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) to neutral from underweight.

Analyst John Ivankoe says the upgrade follows J.P. Morgan sponsored meetings with management. He says "normal" weather brings a return to "normal" comparison sales in the past nine weeks. He raised the 0% second-half comparison-sales assumption to 1%, noting that easy weather comparisons will continue through the first half of 2004.

Ivankoe says it's apparent that pricing will be taken as necessary, perhaps meaningfully above the typical 1.5%, to offset any increase in costs throughout 2004. He thinks significant pricing can be taken without influencing consumer behavior. The company maintained its outlook for 20% earnings per share growth. Ivankoe sees $1.11 2003 earnings per share, and $1.33 in 2004.

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