Aaron Task used the calm before the earnings storm to review recent analyst calls and the still-hot energy sector. Subbing for Jim Cramer on the
"RealMoney" radio show Wednesday, Task, TheStreet.com's co-executive editor, focused on the games analysts play ahead of earnings season. "Analysts have an agenda," Task warned. It can be anything from loyalty to institutional clients to loyalty to a particular stock. "Take what they say with a grain of salt." Task kicked off the segment by praising Oppenheimer's upgrade Tuesday of mega-retailer Wal-Mart ( WMT - Get Report). But he warned listeners not to extrapolate good fortune at Wal-Mart across the sector, saying that "high-end retailers which have been hot may soon cool." Elsewhere on Wall Street, Apple ( AAPL - Get Report) recently had a brokerage raise its price target to $44. Task is wary about stepping into Apple right here (about $37.50), saying it could see slowing growth. Has there been saturation in iPod-land? Perhaps, says Task, who adds that "fashion is fickle." Task also mentioned Deutsche Bank's surprisingly positive note Wednesday on Warner Music Group ( WMG). Deutsche set a price target of $22 on a stock currently trading at $16, predicting that digital revenue will grow. Task disagreed, however, saying that digital revenue is a small growth business in an overall declining content industry. "Profit margins are getting cut," cautioned Task. In terms of downgrades, Task liked UBS' decision to lower its rating on Gamestop ( GME - Get Report) while raising its price target. "No sin in taking money off the table," said Task, even if it is one of Cramer's favorites. Task also had no issues with CSFB's downgrades of KB Home ( KBH - Get Report) and Ryland Group ( RYL). Homebuilding stocks have been tremendous performers, said Task, who advised taking profits if you can. RealMoney contributor Chris Edmonds was Task's special guest Wednesday to comment on energy stocks and oil prices, which settled at a new record. Task compared the different oil outlooks put forward by the major brokerage houses. On one hand, Morgan Stanley issued a report saying oil will fall, while Goldman Sachs saw the potential for a "super spike" past $100 earlier this year.
So who's right? Edmonds says tropical storms Dennis and Cindy are behind the recent surge in oil prices. He says the current price above $60 may be a little frothy, but "$50-plus is more likely and feels more comfortable than $30." Edmonds suggested buying energy stocks on dips or a price correction in oil. His top picks are drillers Nabors ( NBR - Get Report) and Patterson-UTI Energy ( PTEN - Get Report). Edmonds says Nabors has the best rig fleet across the spectrum, meaning deep and shallow wells. It also has significant international operations. Elsewhere in the energy space, Edmonds says the easy gas has been found "so we have to drill deeper, which means companies like FMC Technologies ( FTI - Get Report) should thrive." He expects FMC to see more orders from the Chevrons ( CVX - Get Report) of the world. On that note, Edmonds said that Chevron probably wins the battle for Unocal ( UCL), but will be forced to push its bid a little higher. " CNOOC ( CEO) wants the Asian assets anyway, so it could just get split up."