Stocks to Watch: Sears, AMR, Verizon

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Sears Holdings ( SHLD) could be in for another ugly session on Friday after Fitch Ratings cut its long-term credit rating on the struggling retailer to 'CCC' from 'B' and kept its outlook negative.

"The downgrades reflect the continued deterioration in EBITDA on worse than expected top-line growth, with both Kmart and Sears running negative mid-single-digit comps in the fourth quarter," the ratings agency said, adding later: "In addition, there is increasing risk that EBITDA could turn negative in 2012 with top-line contraction in the mid-single-digit range (due to comparable store sales decline and store closings) even if gross margin remains flat with 2011 levels. As a result, Sears will need to fund operations with increased borrowings."

The downgrade follows news on Tuesday that Sears plans to close up to 120 of its stores following a dismal holiday selling season.

The stock closed Thursday at $32.90, down 55% in 2011.


The New York Stock Exchange is waving bye-bye to shares of AMR Corp. ( AMR), the parent company of American Airlines.

The Big Board is suspending trading in the company's common stock and certain debt issues as of Jan. 5 with plans to begin delisting procedures because the shares aren't meeting the minimum bid requirement. The carrier, which sought bankruptcy protection in late November, expects trading to move to the Pink Sheets following the delisting.

"Due to the company's Chapter 11 filing, AMR is not able to affirm an intent to cure the aforementioned share price deficiency and, accordingly, does not oppose the suspension and delisting of its securities," AMR said in a statement.

AMR shares closed Thursday at 52 cents, down more than 93% in 2011. The shares' peak for the past 52 weeks was $8.89 in January.


Patterson-UTI Energy ( PTEN) said after Thursday's closing bell that it plans to close 31 of its drilling rigs this month.

The company expects to record an after-tax asset impairment charge of $7.1 million from the move, and anticipates most of the rig components will be used as inventory to support its other rig operations.

The stock closed Thursday at $19.91, 7.6% year-to-date.


Dow component Verizon ( VZ) could be the subject of consumer ire on Friday as the company reportedly plans to start charging customers $2 per transaction to make one-time bill payments online or over the phone.

The stock closed Thursday at $40.05, up nearly 12% for 2011.


Morton's Restaurant Group ( MRT) is also in the spotlight as investor Tilman J. Fertitta announced the commencement of its cash tender offer to acquire the steakhouse chain's stock at $6.90 per share.

The stock closed Thursday at $6.85. Feritta owns a little less than a 5% stake in the company, according to data from Thomson Reuters. Morton's agreed to be acquired by Feritta on Dec. 16 with an expected closing for the transaction seen in February.

The per share consideration represents a premium of more than 30% to the stock's closing price of $5.16 on Dec. 15.

-- Written by Michael Baron in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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