(Story updated with Align fourth-quarter earnings and revised analyst views.)
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In today's daily series of investing strategies from Wall Street, analysts highlight solid trends for natural food stocks and improving prospects for long-suffering crude oil refineries.
1) Natural Foods Show Solid Demand Trend
Not only are Citigroup analysts seeing strong long-term growth for the natural food industry in their crystal ball, they're already seeing decent near-term sales in spite of macroeconomic volatility. The analysts are optimistic that companies such as Hain Celestial (HAIN), whose brands include Celestial Seasonings and Earth's Best, have been growing solidly in the fourth quarter, after posting solid growth the preceding quarter. The reason for this, say Citigroup analysts, is that higher-end consumer demand for natural and organic food products is holding up well and the trading up to such foods remains a long-term trend.
Citigroup equity researchers say their thesis is also being supported by United Natural Foods' (UNFI) indication of an accelerating preference for natural and organic foods in November, Hain Celestial's positive rhetoric in a recent Web presentation, and Starbucks' (SBUX) strong fourth-quarter same-store sales, which have a high correlation to natural or organic company sales.At an attractive 21X forward earnings per share value, Hain has been added to Citigroup's list of top stock picks. Meanwhile, the analysts believe that their high teen, longer-term EPS growth forecast for the stock is conservative. They're also seeing high single digit organic sales for the company. "If Hain can merely hit or modestly beat current, conservative analyst estimates over the next few quarters, which we think is achievable, then we could see nice stock upside," they noted.
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