Investors who own shares of Google are sure to be thankful of that fact today; Google's stock rose 0.18 percent even while the Dow and Nasdaq sank 0.87 percent and 1.21 percent, respectively. But not all the news is good, as Zacks Investment Research also downgraded Google to "neutral."
That doesn't mean it's time to panic, of course. Zacks is sticking with a price target of $662 (versus Google's current price of about $611,), and according to an American Banking & Market News article, analyst Shalu Saraf acknowledged that the company has a lot going for it.
Saraf wrote, "Google is one of leading providers of target-based advertisements on the web. The company's fourth quarter earnings beat the Zacks Consensus, ending a solid year, when revenue, gross margin, operating margin, net margin, earnings and cash flow grew. The new growth engines of display, mobile and video appear to be on the right track, augmenting its market position, solid cash flow, focus on innovation, technology and infrastructure, strategic acquisitions and proactive approach to mobile."
Here's the problem(s): Saraf continued, "[W]e caution against steadily growing competition, particularly in mobile and see expenses growing in 2011. Consequently, despite higher earnings expectations, we believe a Neutral recommendation is justified."
That's of course not what Google wants to hear. A lack of confidence can represent a PR problem, and when money and jumpy investors are involved, a self-fulfilling prophecy is always a possibility, as well.
Again, though, it wouldn't be wise for anyone to rearrange his or her whole portfolio on the basis of one "neutral" rating, especially considering the strength of Google's Q4 performance.