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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Starbucks, Hain Celestial Group, General Mills, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and ConAgra Foods

CHICAGO, Jan. 24, 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 Starbucks Corp (Nasdaq:SBUX-Free Report), Hain Celestial Group Inc. (Nasdaq:HAIN-Free Report), General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS-Free Report), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (Nasdaq:GMCR-Free Report) and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG-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:

Starbucks Beats, but Comps Down

Starbucks Corp (Nasdaq:SBUX-Free Report) reported earnings after the bell today.  The bottom line EPS came in ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $0.02, posting an EPS of $0.71, with revenues coming in-line with Zack's expectation of $4.29 billion.  

The major item that the street was concentrating upon was domestic Comparable-Store Sales; expectations were of an increase of 6.25%, but Starbucks only posted a 5.0% growth for the quarter.  This is a decline from 8% last quarter, and 9% a year ago.  Unfortunately, CSS also decreased internationally as well, with Asia being the biggest laggard.  Management touched on the decline by stating that this most recent Holiday season saw a "seismic shift" with in-store traffic.  While the polar storm impacted in-store shoppers, management is worried this might be part of a larger overall trend away from in-store sales.  Finally, management slightly lowered Q2 guidance to $0.56.

On the positive, margins expanded 19.2% on the basis of strategic cost cutting measures by management.  Moreover, these margins were supported by stable commodity prices for the company.  

Going into the earnings announcement, Zacks had identified significant negative agreement amongst Starbuck's coverage analysts; which had been lowering their expectations for the past 30 days.  Therefore, the CSS data has not negatively impacted the overall price in afterhours trading.  Currently, the stock is up just over 1% on light volume.

Hain Celestial Now a Strong Buy

On Jan 22, 2013, Zacks Investment Research upgraded The Hain Celestial Group Inc. (Nasdaq:HAIN-Free Report), a leader in natural food and personal care products categories, to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

A solid return of roughly 71% in the past one year, strong operating performance and rising Zacks Consensus Estimates facilitated Hain Celestial to attain a Zacks Rank #1 status, thereby offering a healthy investment opportunity for investors.

Hain Celestial's strategic investments plus continued efforts to contain costs, increase productivity, and enhance cash flows and margins, have enabled it to deliver healthy results. The company, which competes with General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS-Free Report), expects to sustain strong momentum as it remains well positioned to capitalize on the growing global demand for organic products through acquisitions, which has been a key strategy in building market share.

Hain Celestial constantly endeavors strategic opportunities to expand its footprint in organic and natural products and in turn, "Change the Way the World Eats". Its latest attempt is the acquisition of Tilda Limited, a renowned name in Basmati rice. Management believes that the buyout of Tilda will augment the company's adjusted earnings by 6 cents to 10 cents a share during the second half of fiscal-year 2014.

Earlier, the company had acquired leading packaged grocery brands Hartley's, Gale's Robertson's, Frank Cooper's and Sun-Pat from Premier Foods plc. The company also acquired Ella's Kitchen Group Limited that offers organic baby food products under approximately 80 brands and provides them in easy to carry pouches.

If we look at the company's earnings surprise history over the last 13 quarters, Hain Celestial has topped estimates by an average of 4.1%. In the last concluded quarter, the company posted earnings of 52 cents a share that came a penny ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate and surged 26.8% year over year. Management cited that strong top-line growth of 32.7%, integration of acquired businesses and focus on high margin carrying brands facilitated bottom-line growth.

Management anticipates sales in the range of $2,025 million to $2,050 million in fiscal 2014, reflecting a year-over-year increase of 17%. Earnings are projected in the range of $2.95 to $3.05 per share, up 16% to 20% year over year.

The Zacks Consensus for fiscal 2014 increased 2.3% to $3.09, while for fiscal 2015 it rose 4.6% to $3.61 per share in the last 90 days.

Other Stocks that Warrant a Look

Other stocks worth considering in the sector include, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (Nasdaq:GMCR-Free Report) and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG-Free Report), each carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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

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