Altria stock dives to lead the S&P 500 decliners after Morgan Stanley turns bearish

Shares of Altria Group Inc. MO, -8.37% dove 7.1% in afternoon trading Wednesday, enough to pace the S&P 500’s SPX, -1.08% decliners, after Morgan Stanley analyst Pamela Kaufman turned bearish on the cigarette and heated tobacco seller, citing inflation pressures and long-term competitive risks. The stock, which was headed for the lowest close in 3 1/2 months, was also on track for the biggest one-day decline since it tumbled 8.5% on March 23, 2020. Kaufman cut the rating to underweight, after being at equal weight since October 2021, while lowering the stock price target to $50 from $54. “Near term, we anticipate greater pressures from rising gas prices and weaker consumer sentiment, which should weigh on cigarette volumes and enhance trade-down risk,” Kaufman wrote in a note to clients. For the longer-term, Kaufman cut forecasts to reflect the competitive threat from an acquisition of Swedish Match AB SWMAY, -0.87% SWMA, -0.15% by Philip Morris International Inc. PM, -2.58%. Altria’s stock has gained 5.8% year to date, while Philip Morris shares have rallied 8.9% and the S&P 500 has dropped 13.7%.

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