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June 27, 2009, 5:46 a.m. EDT

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Edited by Anita Peltonen

The following research reports were issued recently by investment firms. Many may be obtained through Thomson Reuters at www.thomsonreuters.com or 800-638-8241. Some are available in the company research area of The Wall Street Journal Online at WSJ.com, or through Factiva.com. Some of the reports' issuers have provided, or hope to provide, investment-banking or other services for the companies being analyzed.

New Coverage | Upgrades & Downgrades

E*Trade Financial - ETFC-NNM
Outperform - Price 1.19 on June 23
by FBR Capital Markets

We are upgrading shares of ETFC to Outperform from Underperform to reflect what we view as a more attractive risk/reward [scenario], following the recent capital raise and commencement of its debt-exchange offer....While we expect mortgage-related losses to remain elevated, we believe the worst is now behind E*Trade, as the nearly $2 billion of fresh equity capital at the company should alleviate regulators' concerns and take the worst-case scenario off the table. As a result of still-strong fundamentals, good cash flow, and the increased probability of its becoming an acquisition candidate, we believe patient investors will be rewarded for stepping into ETFC at current levels. Market cap: $1.25 billion.

Juniper Networks /zigman2/quotes/207361368/composite JNPR -3.47% - JNPR-NNM
Market Perform - Price 21.49 on June 23
by Morgan Keegan

Juniper and Nokia Siemens Networks announced a partnership targeting the integration of data-networking with optical- transport solutions gear....This partnership provides a good way to cost-effectively expand offerings and helps address customer requests, but may not deliver the degree of integration some carriers want. At 25 times our 86-cent [calendar-year] 2010 earnings per share, valuation seems rich. Market cap: $11.2 billion.

Kroger /zigman2/quotes/206215053/composite KR +0.41% - KR-NYSE
Buy - Price 21.46 on June 23
by Kevin Dann & Partners

Kroger reported first-quarter '09 EPS of 66 cents, versus our 60-cent estimate and 58 cents last year. Identical-store sales growth, ex-fuel, came in at 3.1%, versus our 3% estimate and 5.3% last year. The earnings upside was driven by better-than-expected...gross margin of 24.4%, versus 22.9% last year. Excluding fuel, gross margins expanded by five basis points (reversing a trend of declines for the prior few quarters), which management attributed to [less lost inventory], advertising, warehouse expenses, and lower diesel fuel prices. [Earnings before interest and taxes, or Ebit] margins of 3.7% were much better than our 3.3% estimate. Total revenues of $22.8 billion declined by 1.5% [from] last year's $23.1 billion and our $23.2 billion estimate. The top-line weakness was due to lower fuel-dollar sales, as the average retail price for a gallon of gas was down 41% year over year. Excluding fuel, total sales increased 3.9%....Our 26 target assumes Kroger can trade at 11.8 times our 2010 EPS estimate of $2.20, and 5.7 times our 2010 [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] estimate of $4.3 billion. We also expect the stock to yield approximately 4% in free cash flow. Market cap: $14.3 billion.

Republic Bancorp /zigman2/quotes/200886150/composite RBCAA -1.45% - RBCAA-NNM
Neutral - Price 23.31 on June 23
by Hilliard Lyons

We're lowering our rating on Republic from Buy to Neutral. Depending on timing, the stock has outperformed the averages, with appreciation of 41% over the last three months, compared to a 6% increase in the Nasdaq Bank Index -- and a 5% decline year-to-date, versus a 23% drop in the index value. Republic's shares nearly [reached our] previous price target of 26 [recently]. Federal legislative actions and suggestions seem ever more hostile toward companies that operate on the fringes of what is considered traditional banking. We believe this sentiment could limit appreciation in Republic's stock price, in spite of strong results. In May, [President Barack Obama] signed into law the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009....Congress seemed little concerned that by next year, according to Fitch Ratings, 10% of the outstanding loans to prime credit-card users [could fall into delinquency and be written off]. Market cap: $537 million.

Walgreen - WAG-NYSE
Market Perform - Price 29.72 on June 23
by Barrington Research

Walgreen remains engaged in a significant restructuring initiative designed to put the company back on a double-digit long-term EPS growth track beginning with fiscal 2011. The company is accelerating some elements of its plan, leading to a greater negative impact on earnings in the short term. The company reported Q309 earnings that were below expectations and below the prior year, as higher expenses related to restructuring activities and lower gross margins more than offset an 8% revenue increase. Earnings of 53 cents per share (including 6 cents in restructuring costs, off-set by 6 cents in restructuring benefits) declined 8.8%, from 58 cents a year ago -- [and the recent earnings missed] our estimate of 58 cents and the Street's 56 cents. Third-quarter revenue of $16.2 billion, up 8% from last year, was in line with our estimate. Same-store sales improved to 2.8%, from 1.3% in the second quarter, driven by pharmacy [growth of] 3.8% and front-end [growth of] 0.8%. Total prescriptions filled grew 8.3%, reflecting market-share gains... versus an industry-wide growth rate of 2.6%. Market cap: $29.4 billion.

To be considered for this section, material should be sent to Research@barrons.com.
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