NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of Whole Foods Market (WFM) were decreasing in mid-morning trading on Friday as Bank of America/Merrill Lynch reduced its rating on the stock to "underperform" from "neutral."
The firm cut its price target to $25 from $34 on shares of the Austin, TX-based supermarket operator, TheFly reports.
BofA/Merrill Lynch analysts see increased risk to Whole Foods' comparable-store sales and operating margin outlook from the "difficult" environment.
Whole Foods late Wednesday reported better-than-expected earnings for the 2016 fourth quarter and also issued guidance for same-store sales and operating margin for 2017.
The company expects to see comparable-store-sales in the range of a 2% decrease to flat, while operating margin is projected to decline by up to 60 basis points in 2017.
Lower-priced competitors and more promotions should keep comparable-store sales negative into 2018, the firm added.
Operating margin is likely to trend lower due to greater price investments, promotions and marketing expenses, BofA/Merrill Lynch noted.
Separately, TheStreet Ratings objectively rated this stock according to its "risk-adjusted" total return prospect over a 12-month investment horizon. Not based on the news in any given day, the rating may differ from Jim Cramer's view or that of this articles's author.
The team rates Whole Foods as a Hold with a ratings score of C. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in net income, revenue growth and notable return on equity. However, as a counter to these strengths, the team finds that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.