As if $80-per-barrel crude weren't enough of a cross to bear, the airline sector suffered a couple of downgrades from Citigroup analyst Andrew Light today. Light cut Southwest Airlines from buy to hold, and reduced his rating on American Airlines parent AMR Corp. from buy to hold. What's more, Light cut his LUV price target from $18 to $15.20, and his price target on AMR from $34 to $24. In a note to clients, Light said, Despite respectable year-over-year unit revenue performance across the industry, pricing power is not expected to compensate for higher oil prices.
LUV shares closed on a fractional loss today, at $14.79, while AMR shares rose more than 4% to $23.25 as investors cheered the company's plans to pre-pay $545 million in aircraft debt in the fourth quarter.
Light maintained his hold recommendation on JetBlue Airways , though he did lower the firm's price target from $11.60 to $9.20. JBLU closed up fractionally at $9.41. As of today's close, JBLU, LUV, and AMR are all staring up at resistance from their respective 20-day moving averages. The AMEX Airline Index , which closed on a gain of 2% today, is facing similar technical resistance. Investors have also turned against the XAL; the index's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio rests at 17.07, higher than 88% of other such readings taken during the past year.