) to neutral from buy.
Analyst Dana Cohen says the retailer's stock is up more than 60% from its low in October; in the last month, when the average name in the group declined 7%, Gap increased 6%. At the current level, Cohen thinks expectations are relatively high, and he therefore has elected to step aside. He notes the fourth quarter results were strong, at the high end of guidance, and showed significant margin recovery. He says he came away from the quarter once again believing management is doing right thing for the long-term.
Cohen cut his 77 cents first half fiscal 2004 (Jan.) earnings per share estimate to 74 cents given expense increases and slightly more modest margin expectations. He also cut his $19 target to $16.