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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: July 27

2. DeVry's Daffy Downgrades

Look, we understand it's not easy for Wall Street analysts to get it right all the time. And we'll also be the first to admit that predicting the future is a tough, often thankless task, especially with critics like us braying at their bad calls while neglecting the good ones.

All that said, those morons really blew it big time with DeVry (DV - Get Report) this week.

Shares of the for-profit educator shattered Tuesday, falling 25% to barely above $20, after the company sliced its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings outlook as a result of lower enrollment. DeVry said it now expects to earn 43 to 46 cents per share on revenue of between $500 million and $510 million for the period when it reports results August 9.

So what were Wall Street's prognosticators estimating prior to DeVry's pre-announcement? Well, how about 79 cents per share in earnings on revenue of $519.2 million.

Oh yeah, they whiffed big time, which surprised us considering all the recent calamities in the industry. Seriously, after Bridgepoint Education's (BPI) selloff over accreditation worries earlier this month, Apollo Group's (APOL) shellacking in March due to enrollment declines and Career Education's (CECO) collapse last year as a result of improper placement lawsuits, one would think that the analyst community would have sharpened their pencils when it came to their DeVry outlook.

Nonetheless, based on their sky-high original targets for the company, that clearly was not the case. Despite all the carnage in the for-profit education sector, they obviously didn't learn their lesson.

RW Baird has subsequently cut its price target to $23 from $35. Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded DeVry to neutral and lowered its price objective to $23 from $37. Citigroup went to $25 from $40. JPMorgan, $23 from $35. Topeka Capital, $23 from $40.

Look, we know that DeVry is an industry leader and has so far avoided stepping on the most serious mines that have been blowing up its competitors. But that does not excuse these Wall Street analysts from stupidly luring investors onto the minefield with sky-high price targets in the first place.
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