Prudential Financial Gets Two Upgrades

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Prudential Financial ( PRU) received a pair of upgrades following a recent sharp selloff in the shares in the wake of disappointing first quarter earnings results.

Morgan Stanley analyst Nigel Dally and Evercore Partners' Mark Finkelstein both raised their recommendations to overweight from equal weight, though Finkelstein reduced his price target to $65 from $71, according to Bloomberg data. Dally's price target is $66. His previous target could not be determined. Prudential shares, which closed at $51.06 on Wednesday and have fallen nearly 17% over the last five days, were up more than 2% in pre-market trading.

"While the recent results from the company were clearly disappointing, we believe the stock price reaction has been significantly overdone, pushing valuation down to a level that we now view as highly compelling, with the stock currently trading at 6.5 times our 2013 EPS estimate and at less than 0.9 expected year-end book value," Dally writes.

Prudential's core first quarter earnings of $1.34 per share were 27 cents below Dally's estimates, though he attributes two thirds of the shortfall to temporary items "including adverse mortality, escalated corporate expenses, and weaker-than-trend proprietary investment results."

Finkelstein argues Prudential's "now lower valuation, more favorable long term growth characteristics, and the strength and stability of its international business" warrant an upgrade, despite the prospect of Prudential being subjected to stricter regulatory oversight if regulators decide its failure could pose a threat to the financial system.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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