3 Stocks Hit 52-Week Highs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Papa John's ( PZZA), Allstate ( ALL) and Whole Foods Market ( WFM) hit 52-week highs on Thursday.

Papa John's

"Our new price target and improved outlook for PZZA lead us to upgrade our rating," Feltl analysts wrote in a report on Wednesday. "There is not enough upside to our new price target to recommend the shares, but we would turn more positive if same-store sales improved more than we expect, PZZA produced better earnings growth or if the shares traded below $37 with no change in fundamentals."

Shares of Papa John's hit a 52-week high Thursday of $48.60. The stock's 52-week low of $29.65 was set on Aug. 9.

Papa John's trades at an estimated price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 17.01 times; the average for restaurant and bar companies is 19.55. For comparison, Domino's ( DPZ) has a lower forward P/E of 14.9.

Three of the four analysts who cover Papa John's rated it hold; one analyst gave the stock a buy rating.

The stock has risen 28.03% year to date.

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Allstate

The insurance company's stock was upgraded to neutral from sell by Goldman Sachs analysts on Wednesday.

"First quarter results are a good start for the year, and we continue to view positively the company's business profile and fundamentals," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a report Thursday. "However, we are maintaining our UW-30% recommendation on Allstate cash/CDS post results primarily due to tight valuation on this defensive name, given our continued mildly bullish view on credit as an asset class."

Shares of Allstate hit a 52-week high Thursday of $34.83. The stock's 52-week low of $22.27 was set on Sept. 22.

Allstate's forward P/E is 8.41; the average among its peers is 12.76. For comparison, Chubb ( CB) has a higher forward P/E of 12.29.

Seventeen of the 29 analysts who cover Allstate rated it buy. Eleven analysts gave the stock a hold rating and one rated it sell.

The stock has risen 25.87% year to date.


Whole Foods Market

The food retailer reported Wednesday second-quarter earnings of $117.7 million, or 64 cents a share, up from year-earlier earnings of $89.9 million, or 51 cents.

Whole Foods also raised its fiscal 2012 outlook that same day with sales expected to rise between 14.8% and 15.6% from previous guidance of between 13.5% to 15%. Earnings per share guidance was also increased to between $2.44 a share and $2.47 a share, up from prior estimates of between $2.28 a share and $2.32 a share.

"Whole Foods' impressive run continued in the second quarter as robust sales and strong operational execution resulted in another beat and raise," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a report Thursday. "EPS of $0.64 exceeded consensus of $0.59 and our estimate of $0.57. The quarter was clean and showcased the strength of the company's underlying fundamentals. Upside was driven by strong identical store (ID) sales growth (+8.4% excluding the Easter shift) and a much better than expected gross margin (+ 71 bps). Costs were a touch higher than expected, but still provided meaningful leverage. While some of the recent acceleration in earnings growth may not be sustainable (management indicated that the gross margin was unusually high), it's clear that the outlook remains robust. We were particularly impressed with the performance of new stores, given management's push into much smaller markets. We raised our earnings estimates by 6%+ and our target price to $90 from $72. We maintained our Neutral rating primarily based on valuation."

Shares of Whole Foods hit a 52-week high Thursday of $90.71. The stock's 52-week low of $53.32 was set on Aug. 9.

Whole Foods' forward P/E is 32.68; the average for food retailers and wholesalers is 15. For comparison, Sysco ( SYY) has a lower forward P/E of 13.89.

Fourteen of the 25 analysts who cover Whole Foods rated it buy. Ten analysts gave the stock a hold rating and one rated it sell.

The stock has risen 29.75% year to date.

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-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian

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