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With Goldman Below Book Value, Bove Upgrades Rating

After almost three months of being on Rochdale Securities' "sell" list, Goldman Sachs has been upgraded by vice president of equity research Richard Bove to "neutral" from "sell."

In his report, Bove listed four reasons for the May 12 downgrade of the investment bank to a sell rating and a price target of $120 per share:

  • Its stock was selling above book value while its peers were selling at discounts.
  • The bank was said to be the target of additional government investigations.
  • Its earnings outlook for the near term was bleak.
  • The outlook for the bank's core businesses was lowered.

Only one of these factors remain—the outlook for Goldman Sachs' core businesses has not improved very much. Rochdale's Bove suggests in the report, however, that the investment bank's drop from $148 on May 21 to its close on Tuesday at $123 per share has already incorporated this outlook in its share price.

Since the stock is now selling below book value, Bove said his firm's justification for the sell rating no longer exists.

Goldman Sachs is currently being sued by a credit union regulator for $491 million. The investment bank has $2 billion set aside for such lawsuits, so Bove does not think the lawsuit will seriously threaten earnings.

"Financial companies are like tobacco or asbestos firms," Bove said. "Litigation costs are embedded in these businesses and will continue to be for the next five to seven years."

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Richard Bove does not hold any Goldman Sachs securities. Rochdale Securities does not make a market in equity securities and does not engage in investment banking.

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