Merrill Upgrades Jack in the Box to 'Buy'

Analyst Peter Oakes thinks the fast-food chain's sales will increase this summer, aided by a new salad lineup

Merrill Lynch upgraded Jack in the Box (JBX ) to buy from hold.

Analyst Peter Oakes says he upgraded on the expectation that same-store sales will stabilize, and start increasing later this summer.

He says the quick service restaurant category been under enormous pressure in the last few quarters, and the Street views these difficulties as primarily secular. But Oakes thinks the difficulties are actually cyclical, and he expects events to reverse course shortly, boosting shares. He sees the launch of a new salad lineup aiding sales performance.

Oakes raised the $1.90 2003 earnings per share estimate to $1.95, and upped the $2.10 2004 estimate to $2.20. He established a $22 target.

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