Sector Snap: Auto parts retailers downgraded

NEW YORK -- Shares of auto parts retailers declined Wednesday after Sterne Agee & Leach downgraded Penske Automotive Group and Group 1 Automotive Inc., after their stock had gained value for months.

Sterne Agee analyst Michael Ward maintained a positive view of both stocks, but said the share prices could decline in late 2012 or early 2013 because of tougher business comparisons and concerns about the potential fiscal cliff next year.

"While we expect the positive trends to continue over the next few years, we believe the current market price has discounted most of the near-term momentum," he said.

Group 1 shares lost $1.34, or 2.1 percent, to $63.04 in afternoon trading and Penske stock lost 86 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $31.

Penske shares are up 65.5 percent in 2012, while Group 1 shares are up 24.3 percent for the year. Since June 28, Penske shares have climbed 52.2 percent and Group 1 shares 43.1 percent.

Elsewhere in the sector, Sonic Automotive Inc. shares gave up 10 cents to $19.40, KAR Auction Services Inc. fell 30 cents to $19.05, and CTS Corp. shares rose 2 cents to $8.51.