) to market perform from outperform.
Analyst Mark Marcon says Media Metrix scores released Friday indicate that Monster's key rivals, CareerBuilder and HotJobs, experienced much faster-than-expected growth in January. He says by some measures, these rivals have dramatically closed the gap with Monster.
Marcon thinks Monster will have to spend more to maintain the lead in terms of quality job-seeker traffic, and he thinks competition in the field for new sales may become more intense. As a result, he increased his marketing assumptions. Marcon sees 10 first-quarter earnings per share, and cut the 55 cents 2004 estimate to 53 cents, and trimmed the 82 cents 2005 estimate to 80 cents, He pegs a $21.60 to $25.50 valuation.