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Jefferies Lowers Career Education to Hold

Career Education (CECO) posted 50 cents second-quarter earnings per share and lowered its 2005 outlook. Jefferies downgraded the stock to hold from buy.

Analyst Richard Close says 2005 guidance was lowered due to softer land-based enrollments and reduced leverage with softer enrollments. He is more cautious due to the emergence of negative growth at bricks-n-mortar as a result of outstanding issues.

Close notes that the Pennsylvania Attorney General has requested info on the company's Allentown school, which has had negative news coverage. He says this reinforces that Career Education may have difficulty in stabilizing bricks-n-mortar amid greater scrutiny from regulators.

He cut his $2.63 2006 EPS estimate to $2.53. He lowered his $45 price target to $37.

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