Forget Netflix, Delta Has Most Analyst Love for 2014

Tickers in this article: DAL NFLX
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Netflix may be the best performing S&P 500 stock in 2013, but Delta Airlines is the one analysts favor for 2014.

All 18 analysts who follow Delta have "buy" recommendations, garnering Delta a score of 4.94 out of 5 on Bloomberg's ranking system. Fifteen of those analysts have 12-month price targets, with the average of those 15 being $33.97. Delta shares were trading at $27.49 for a gain of 1.08% on the day, shortly after Tuesday's open on the final trading day of 2013. That means if Delta were to enter January at its current level and hit analysts' average target by the end of the coming year it would translate to a gain of 23.57% for 2014 excluding dividends.

"Despite DAL's relatively better momentum and lower risk, shares trade at a discount to the sector," argued Bank of America analyst Glenn Engel in a Dec. 17 report.

"Delta is on pace to repurchase $500mn a year in stock, triple initial guidance, and capital returns could go higher when DAL achieves $7bn net debt target in 2015," the report continues, adding that the airline's "underfunded pension liability dropped 30% in 2013 to around $10bn."

Delta shares have returned more than 130% in 2013, fourth best among S&P 500 stocks. By contrast, Netflix, the best performer with shares up some 294% on the year, received only a 2.90 rating from analysts, the 28th worst in the S&P 500.

Just six of the 39 analysts who cover Netflix recommend the stock to investors. Twenty-five have "hold" recommendations, while eight have "sell" ratings. The average price target of $344.92 would represent a 5.66% decline from Tuesday's price of $365.60 in mid-morning trading.

"We continue to believe that Netflix's high valuation is somewhat unwarranted given the potential for slowing domestic growth as early as Q4:13, coupled with increasing content costs," wrote Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter in a Dec. 30 note. Pachter has an "underperform" rating and a $160 price target on Netflix.

NFLX Total Return Price Chart
NFLX Total Return Price data by YCharts

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.