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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Berkshire Hathaway, Capital One Financial, Principal Financial Group, Lincoln National and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals

CHICAGO, Aug. 6, 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 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B-Free Report), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF-Free Report), Principal Financial Group Inc.  (NYSE:PFG-Free Report), Lincoln National Corp. (NYSE:LNC-Free Report) and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:BCRX-Free Report).

Zacks Investment Research, Inc., www.zacks.com

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

Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

3 Top-Ranked Value Stocks Warren Buffett Should Consider Buying

Warren Buffett, the proverbial king of value investing, who has beefed up his conglomerate from ice-cream to insurance, is eyeing an attractive opportunity. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B-Free Report), of which Buffett is the chairman and CEO, revealed a huge cash hoard of $55.5 billion as of Jun 30, in its second-quarter earnings release. Of the total, almost 90% came from the company's insurance operations, which are traditionally the most profitable. This wide moat gives Buffett ample fund for acquisitions, capital expenditures and most of the company's operations.

Buffet's investment choice is quite clear. He believes, "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price" and is willing to wait for one. With enough dry power $35 billion ($20 billion to be kept in cash coffers) Buffett is just ready to pull the trigger.

Buffett Waiting for Right Entry Point?

But the improving mood of financial markets in recent years has made it tougher for Buffett to lock in investments which befit his value style investing.

The markets have been bullish for over 5 years and the equities have shown a remarkable rise since the last recession. Even after losing last month, the S&P 500 Index stands at a level which is nearly 3 times higher than its 2009 low. Equity benchmarks are advancing, ignoring the troubles created by the annexation of Crimea by Russia; slowing growth and credit concerns in China; mixed U.S. economic data; and sectarian tensions in Iraq.

Buffett has always had an eagle's eye for those stocks that have generally have been side-lined in the marketplace but have good fundamentals and can be purchased at a bargain, compared with book value, replacement value or liquidation value.

Some of the big purchases made by Buffett included railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26.5 billion in 2009, chemicals giant Lubrizol for $10 billion a year later and H.J. Heinz for $28 billion in 2013.

Buffett's unprecedented investments in Berkshire have driven growth for the company.  The company's latest annual filing shows that Berkshire's book value has grown at a compounded annual gain of 19.7% compared with 9.8% gain for S&P 500 from 1964 to 2013.

Market Correction Anytime Soon?

A significant market correction would present a buying opportunity for Buffett. Last week former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said that he expects market to see a significant correction after having recovered for so long.

Most of the S&P 500 companies have reported second-quarter results and the season has been positive, with company managements generally reporting upbeat outlooks for the rest of 2014. Strong corporate fundamentals should therefore provide good support for share prices going forward and further propel the rally in the equity markets.

Moreover, a nod from the Fed about the rebound in economic activity and an improvement in labor market conditions in its latest meeting also signal that equities will gain.

3 Stocks Buffett Might Be Interested In

Buffett's acquisition choices have changed over time. While at the start of his career he would look for lesser-known companies trading at bargain prices, more recently he has been favoring larger, higher quality names at reasonable prices. We believe the change is just appropriate since he now manages many billions of dollars at Berkshire Hathaway, and therefore buying small firms would be like bolt on acquisitions and not make much difference to the company's overall results.

Below we point out some promising stocks which have the capacity to deliver. Needless to mention that looking out for value stocks amid the bull-run is a challenging task, since valuations are stretched across the markets. The primary measures used to define value stocks are price-to-earnings ratio (the price of a stock divided by the current year's earnings per share) and price-to-book ratio (share price divided by book value per share). Value stocks have relatively low price-to-earnings and price-to-book ratios.

We have listed three stocks with a forward PE ratio below 15 and Price/Book Value (P/B) less than 2.5. with a debt-to-equity ratio of less than 1.

These stocks have trailed the S&P 500 in terms of year-to-date price returns, and thus possess attractive valuations. In addition, these stocks with a favorable Zacks Rank have posted positive earnings surprise over the past four quarters and have are witnessing upward estimate revisions.

Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE:COF-Free Report)

With $45.5 billion of market capital, this is a diversified banking company focusing on consumer and commercial lending as well as deposit origination. The company's steady capital deployment activities make it an attractive pick for investors. Capital One continues to witness a rise in net revenues.

In 2012, the company acquired ING Direct USA, which boosted the top line significantly. The company also has a strong Credit Card business and maintains a geographically diversified loan and deposit portfolio.

The stock has gained 4.7% year-to-date.

Forward P/E = 10.4x.

P/B Ratio = 1.04

Debt to Equity Ratio of 0.85

Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

Principal Financial Group Inc.  (NYSE:PFG-Free Report)

Ranked among the Fortune 500 companies and with a market capitalization of $14.6 billion, it provides an expansive range of retirement savings, investment and insurance products and services through its various subsidiaries. The company's Asset Under Management shows a steadily increasing trend. Several recent acquisitions are also expected to increase its asset under management

Moreover, Principal Financial's capital deployment through share buybacks and dividend payment looks impressive, making it an attractive pick for investors.

The stock has gained 3.3% year-to-date. It has a PEG Ratio of 1.

Forward P/E = 11.7x.

P/B Ratio = 1.44

Debt to Equity Ratio =0.24

Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

Lincoln National Corp. (NYSE:LNC-Free Report)

With market capitalization of $13.6 billion, it is a diversified life insurance and investment management company that is structured to suit the needs of all economic strata, adding value to client-investments and mitigating risks related to retirement planning. Higher asset-based fee revenues, improved spread income from interest-sensitive products and lower amortization of intangibles, have driven Lincoln National's earnings over the past few years.

Lincoln National has taken steps to protect and build its capital base and mitigate balance sheet risks. The company adopts strong asset and liability management practices from time to time, including equity and interest rate hedging programs, which partially mitigate risk exposure. The company is focused on product development to increase its competitive position among small to mid-sized corporates and employee benefit markets as well as to capitalize on opportunities from regulatory changes effective in 2009.

The stock has gained 3.5% year-to-date. It has PEG Ratio = 0.90, which indicates future growth.

Forward P/E = 10.4x.

P/B Ratio = 0.93

Debt to Equity Ratio =0.33

Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

Bottom Line

Will these stocks live up to the expectations of The Oracle of Omaha? Though these metrics help in picking the right stocks, fundamentals and other qualitative aspects of a company also play important roles.

PE ratio and PB ratio combined with a solid Zacks Rank, rising earnings estimate revisions as well as and a moderate debt position are nonetheless solid indicators of lucrative stocks in an overvalued market.

Tekmira Pharma in Focus as World Awaits Ebola Cure

The outbreak of the deadly and highly infectious Ebola disease in Africa has already claimed multiple lives. According to media reports many health workers including doctors and nurses have also fallen a prey to the worst outbreak of the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease first surfaced in 1976. Among other places, it affected the Yambuku village situated close to the river Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The disease (Ebola-Zaire) has been named after the river.

What is Ebola?

The viral disease is characterized by symptoms like high fever and internal bleeding, and often proves to be fatal. According to WHO, outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease primarily takes place in remote Central and West African villages located near tropical rainforests. Wild animals are responsible for transmitting the virus to humans. Human-to-human transmission then results in the spread of Ebola in the entire population.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the different sub types of Ebola (Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Reston, Ebola-Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo or Ebola-Uganda) are named after the places in which they were discovered. The most contagious and infectious disease in the Ebola family is Ebola-Zaire, the strain of which is present in the Ebola-Uganda and Ebola-Sudan subtypes.

Ebola Outbreak Alerts FDA

With the severity of the outbreak increasing each passing day, the FDA declared late last week that it will collaborate with companies to develop treatments to combat the deadly virus. There is currently no approved treatment for the Ebola virus. According to Reuters, the FDA is not averse to proposals that aim to offer treatments to combat Ebola under special emergency new drug applications in the event of the therapy having a favorable benefit-risk profile.

A Canadian company, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., one of the few companies developing treatments for Ebola, gained significantly following the FDA announcement.  

We remind investors that the U.S. regulatory body had placed Tekmira's phase I study (TKM-Ebola) on clinical hold last month due to safety concerns. The company had then expected the matter to be resolved by year-end 2014 following the submission of a complete response. TKM-Ebola was being developed by Tekmira under a contract worth $140 million with the U.S. Department of Defense.

However, the FDA statement rekindled hopes of an earlier resolution and subsequent progress (including submission of a new study proposal) on the matter, as the world desperately awaits a treatment to curb Ebola.

Most of the gains at Tekmira were nonetheless eaten away following a CNN report that an Ebola candidate developed by rival Mapp Biopharmaceutical was being used to treat two Americans who had contracted the virus in West Africa.

We remind investors that in Mar 2014, the FDA had granted a Fast Track status to TKM-Ebola. With fears that the Ebola outbreak might gain the magnitude of a pandemic, pressures have been mounting on the FDA to expedite the approval of a drug to combat Ebola. In such a scenario, it is all but natural that companies like Tekmira and Mapp will invite plenty of attraction. We believe investors will remain glued on Ebola related updates at Tekmira.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:BCRX-Free Report) is another company which has a candidate BCX4430 in early stage development to combat a wide array of viruses including Ebola.

Tekmira carries a Zacks Rank # 3 (Hold).

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About Zacks Equity Research

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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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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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