Buy FedEx, UPS on 'Double-Dip' Fear Dips?

In a continuing saga unfolding on Wall Street, many individual analysts are upgrading the companies they cover based on company metrics, despite macroeconomic fears being spread by top-down economists.

It’s a battle where it’s not quite certain who to believe: the more objective economists studying the data from 30,000 feet or the individual analyst, who tends to err on the favorable side, but have a laser-focus on the microeconomic factors sometimes missed from the economists’ Ivory towers.

The latest example came today when a BB&T analyst upgraded FedEx and UPS following a 19% drop and 8% slide respectively in the shares over the last three months on double-dip recession fears.

Using the kind of data that only an analyst would uncover, BB&T’s Kevin Sterling cited FedEx’s plans to increase pilot work hours to pre-recession levels “in anticipation of stronger demand, particularly out of Asia.” The analyst also cited moves by both UPS and FedEx to add planes to their Asia networks.

“Who forgot to tell the air cargo industry that we are in the midst of a double-dip recession?” asks Sterling, who also cited valuation. UPS trade at about 16 times his 2011 earnings estimates, below the five-year average of 18.

Following the biggest weekly surge in a year, stocks drifted as investors await earnings releases from the likes of Alcoa and CSX after the bell today. In a sign that maybe things aren’t so bad, shares of CSX, the No. 3 US railroad, are down just 3% over the last three months leading up to tonight’s earnings.

Analysts are clearly seeing different views on these bellwether stocks. UBS upgraded FedEx and UPS on July 1.

FedEx reported earnings mid-June that knocked the stock after they provided conservative guidance that raised the possibility of an earnings miss for the year. But the economy wasn’t cited. Instead management cited pension costs, aircraft maintenance and health care costs. These are FedEx problems. Not the world’s problems.

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