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Seagate Technology PLC (STX), Western Digital Corp (WDC), BofI Holding, Inc. (BOFI): Thursday’s Top Upgrades (and Downgrades)

This series, brought to you by Yahoo! Finance, looks at which upgrades and downgrades make sense, and which ones investors should act on. Today, our headlines feature a double-upgrade for hard disk drive makers Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) and Western Digital Corp (NASDAQ:WDC). But the news isn’t all good, so before we get to those, let’s find out first why one analyst is…

Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX)

Cashing in BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI)
On an “up” day for the market, shareholders of Internet bank
BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI) are watching their stock sink 2.4% (and counting). For this, you can thank the somewhat less than friendly analysts at investment bank Sandler O’Neill + Partners.

After watching their erstwhile recommendation run up nearly 150% in a year, analysts at Sandler have decided not to get greedy, and quit while they’re ahead. Consequently, Sandler cut its rating on BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI) from “buy” to “hold.” But are they quitting too soon?

Sure, on the one hand, a 150%-ish profit is nothing to sneeze at. And yet, with a price-to-earnings ratio of only 16.6 today, it’s hard to argue BofI is overpriced. Major traditional banks such as Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) — slower growing than BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI) — are, after all, trading as high as 40 times earnings themselves. And as for BofI, analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ still expect to see the Internet bank grow earnings 72% over the next three years, to just over $4 a share in 2015.

That’s a compound annual earnings growth rate of nearly 20%. If BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI) succeeds in hitting it three years from now, then today’s 16.6 P/E ratio will look like it was a bargain.

And speaking of bargains…
Meanwhile, over at Longbow Research, the analysts think they’ve found a pair of stocks to recommend that are even more obvious bargains than BofI Holding, Inc. (NASDAQ:BOFI).

Thursday morning, Longbow announced upgrades of both of the famous hard disk drive makers, rating both Seagate and Western Digital as buys. Let’s take them one at a time and see if the recommendations check out.

Priced just under $45 a share today, Longbow thinks Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) shares could reach $54 a year from now — a near-21% profit for today’s buyers. That’s a prospect sure to attract bargain hunters, and adding to the attraction is the fact that Seagate shares sell for some very enticing multiples today. Valued on GAAP earnings, the shares cost only a 7.1 times multiple. Valued on actual free cash flow, they’re even cheaper — costing just 4.8 times the amount of cash Seagate threw off last year.

The main problem with Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX), of course, is that the stock is currently expected to see earnings decline, not grow, over the next five years. On average, analysts are looking for a compound annual rate of earnings shrinkage of just over 4%.