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Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day Highlights: Whirlpool, Darden Restaurants, Yahoo!, Google and Baidu

CHICAGO, Dec. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Equity Research highlights Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) as the Bull of the Day and Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) as the Bear of the Day. In addition, Zacks Equity Research provides analysis on Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO), Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG) and Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq:BIDU).

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Full analysis of all these stocks is available at http://at.zacks.com/?id=2678.

Here is a synopsis of all five stocks:

Bull of the Day:

We have upgraded our recommendation on shares of Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) to Outperform from Neutral and set a target price of $123.00. The company has posted more than six fold increase in third quarter earnings to $1.80 per share, exceeding the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $0.20, led by improvements in its North American operations.

The company continues to be the largest maker of home appliances in the world by focusing on innovative product range. Further, its cost containment measures have started bearing fruit. As a result, the company has upgraded its full-year 2012 EPS guidance.

Our long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock indicates that it will perform better than the broader market. Our $123.00 target price, 17.5x our 2012 EPS estimate, reflects this view.

 Bear of the Day:

Despite having a unique proposition driven by menu improvements and a balanced portfolio, Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) has been facing challenges in the recent times. The latest decline in comps at three of its brands -- Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse -- as well as the failure of promotional offers plagued the company in the second quarter.

Stiff competition resulting in higher discounting rates, failure of some promotional offers, probability of higher 2013 SG&A expenses as well as cautious consumer spending will add to the woes. Most importantly, Darden recently slashed its earnings per share guidance for fiscal 2013 to reflect the dilutive effect of the latest Yard House acquisition and the adverse impact from Hurricane Sandy.

Our six-month target price of $42.00 equates to about 12.4x our estimate for 2013. The target price implies an expected negative return of 7.4% over that period. We recommend an Underperform recommendation on the shares.

Latest Posts on the Zacks Analyst Blog:

No Music Service from Yahoo in China

Reportedly, Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO) is set to shut its music service in China on Jan 20, 2013. Therefore, Chinese customers will no longer avail the service in the country. The company said that the move was designed to streamline its operations.

Yahoo has been disposing off its assets in China. Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd runs Yahoo China, and the Sunnyvale-based company now owns a 23.0% stake in Alibaba. Earlier, Yahoo sold part of its share in Alibaba for $7.6 billion with the intention of using the proceeds to acquire new companies.

Yahoo has been actively restructuring its operations over the past year. Yahoo will close down its Korean offices by the end of fiscal 2012. Since 1997, Yahoo has been doing business in Korea. However, the Korean operation was facing incremental challenges from local start-up Internet companies that were providing services at cheaper rates.

Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG) also appears to be withdrawing from China, as it has closed down both its shopping search and Music Search services in the country. Google has been battling against stringent Chinese government's censorship laws. Thus, failing to find a favorable platform in China, Google decided to transfer its resources to other areas instead.

The Chinese online market is now dominated by local player Baidu Inc. (Nasdaq:BIDU) which holds 73.0% market share followed by Qihoo that gets 10.0% of the traffic. Google holds the fourth place with 5.0% traffic, while Yahoo has a paltry 0.25%. Thus, it makes sense for Yahoo to leave the online music market in China.

In the third quarter of fiscal 2012, Yahoo reported revenue of $1.20 billion, which was down 1.3% sequentially and 1.2% year over year. TAC costs were down 17.7% sequentially and 22.2% from last year. Excluding these costs in all periods, net revenue was essentially flat on a sequential basis and up 1.6% from last year, in line with the consensus estimate.

Yahoo, Baidu and Google all have a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a Hold rating in the near term.

Get the full analysis of all these stocks by going to http://at.zacks.com/?id=2649.

About the Bull and Bear of the Day

Every day, the analysts at Zacks Equity Research select two stocks that are likely to outperform (Bull) or underperform (Bear) the markets over the next 3-6 months.

About the Analyst Blog

Updated throughout every trading day, the Analyst Blog provides analysis from Zacks Equity Research about the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous analyst coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

Zacks "Profit from the Pros" e-mail newsletter provides highlights of the latest analysis from Zacks Equity Research. Subscribe to this free newsletter today by visiting http://at.zacks.com/?id=7158.

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