SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Greg Ness, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel

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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Western Digital, Seagate Technology, Apple, Google and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

CHICAGO, Jan. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Western Digital Corp. (Nasdaq:WDC-Free Report), Seagate Technology (Nasdaq:STX-Free Report), Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL-Free Report), Google (Nasdaq:GOOG-Free Report) and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (Nasdaq:CBRL-Free Report).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Western Digital Upped to Strong Buy

On Jan 1, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Western Digital Corp. (Nasdaq:WDC-Free Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).The upgrade came on the back of positive estimate revisions over the last 60 days. WDC's shares are up 81.4% year to date while it has an outstanding one-year return of 104.9%. WDC also delivered positive earnings surprises in the last four quarters with an average beat of 11.4%.

Why the Upgrade?

Over the last 60 days, WDC witnessed two upward revisions for the current quarter as well as for fiscal 2014. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for both the current quarter and full year went up by a cent to $2.07 and $7.99, respectively over the same period of time.

It is also worth noting that the Zacks Consensus Estimate for WDC's second quarter revenues and earnings are within management's guided range. WDC guided revenues between $3.775 billion and $3.875 billion, and the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $3.85 billion. Non-GAAP earnings per share are expected between $1.95 and $2.10, and the Zacks Consensus Estimate is $2.07.

Some of the current buoyancy surrounding the shares is related to the company's business shift toward non-PC applications, secular growth of digital data and growing exposure to the small and medium business space. Additionally, the company has been expanding its presence in the SSD storage market, which is expected to place WDC in a better position compared to its peers such as Seagate Technology (Nasdaq:STX-Free Report) and Fusion-io, Inc.

Moreover, the company has also expanded its My Cloud solutions with My Cloud EX4, a broader portfolio of network attached storage (NAS) hard drives. My Cloud EX4 can be accessed through Apple's (Nasdaq:AAPL-Free Report) iOS and Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG-Free Report) operating systems, thus enabling users to access their files via smartphones or tablets.

In addition, the company introduced WD Black2 dual drive. The new hybrid dual drive storage solution will help WDC to meet growing business needs with flexibility and offer improved user experience.

Also, Western Digital is the largest HDD manufacturer in the U.S. Western Digital's market share in the total addressable market (TAM) of HDD increased from 44.9% in the previous quarter to 45.1%. These factors culminated in the Zacks Rank upgrade on WDC shares.

Cracker Barrel Rejects Biglari Offer

Full-service restaurant, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (Nasdaq:CBRL-Free Report), has turned down the buyout offer from Sardar Biglari, who owns a 20% stake in Cracker Barrel. The restaurant chain reportedly intends to carry on its business and believes that the existing business strategy will optimize shareholders' value. Biglari's recent non-binding proposal for a $20 special dividend from the company was also rejected.

Biglari offered to buy the company citing an inefficient management team and lower-than-expected earnings. However, the bid was rejected by the board at the annual meeting.

According to media reports, Cracker Barrel decided to pull back some "Duck Dynasty" items from its shelves after actor, Phil Robertson, made some anti-gay remarks. However, the company reinstated them after 24 hours. Biglari pointed out this incident as a case of serious mismanagement on the part of the company.

This is not the first time when Sardar Biglari has showed interest in the company; in fact, he has made numerous attempts to take over Cracker Barrel, only to be voted down by shareholders each time.

Although Biglari asserts that the earnings of Cracker Barrel are lower than expected, CBRL posted strong fiscal first-quarter 2014 results in Nov 2013. Adjusted earnings (excluding proxy contest expenses) of $1.22 per share increased 13.0% year over year and also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.13 by 8.0%. Top-line growth and lower interest expenses boosted earnings in the quarter.

The Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company reaffirmed its guidance for fiscal 2014. CBRL expects earnings to be between earnings per diluted share of between $5.60 and $5.80. It expects revenues in the range of $2.70 billion to $2.75 billion for fiscal 2014. The guidance takes into account seven or eight expected store openings and increases in comparable store restaurant sales and retail sales in a band of 2.0% to 3.0%.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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Zacks.com is a property of Zacks Investment Research, Inc., which was formed in 1978. The later formation of the Zacks Rank, a proprietary stock picking system; continues to outperform the market by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. The best way to unlock the profitable stock recommendations and market insights of Zacks Investment Research is through our free daily email newsletter; Profit from the Pros.  In short, it's your steady flow of Profitable ideas GUARANTEED to be worth your time! Register for your free subscription to Profit from the Pros.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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