Satellite Imagery: 2 Stock Analysts' Latest Weapon

Satellite imagery, used to track traffic at the parking lots of Wal-Mart stores, contributed to UBS' downgrade of the retailer's stock, retail analyst Neil Currie told CNBC Thursday.

“It [the satellite imagery] was just one of the inputs that we’d been using to come to our comp expectations,” said Currie, who said he and his team get monthly imagery data and aggregate it.

“We came up with a negative 0.8 percent comp sales for Wal-Mart , where we were previously expecting plus .3 [percent].”

Currie said the satellite imagery also reported an upswing in traffic when Wal-Mart ran specials on 24-packs of cola from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Nicole Miller Regan, a restaurant analyst for Piper Jaffray , said her company has used the imagery for about a year to show the amount of traffic based on weather, and at mealtimes, at McDonald’s .

“For the better part of last year, all the platforms around breakfast and beverages were pushing the McDonald’s comp higher,” said Regan.

She said that her company publishes a monthly “snapshot” of the fast-food chain's traffic: "We saw a change in trend, come the November time frame, where it was the core lunch, or day part, that took over driving comp.”

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Disclosure information was available for Neil Currie, Nicole Miller Regan and their companies.