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Intuit rises on upgrade

The financial software maker's shares jump 16 percent on better-than-expected earnings and an analyst's upgrade.

    Intuit shares shot up 16 percent Wednesday on better-than-expected earnings and an analyst's upgrade.

    The financial software maker topped analyst estimates Tuesday when it posted a fiscal second-quarter profit of $104.2 million, or 48 cents a share.

    Intuit closed up $5.31 at $38 on Wednesday.

    Salomon Smith Barney analyst Matthew Vetto upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral" Wednesday, citing the solid quarter and the bargain-basement price of the shares. The stock is off 50 percent from November levels.

    Vetto did lower his price target for the stock to $44 from $62 because of current market conditions, but saw possible catalysts for the stock during tax season.

    Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker maintained an "outperform" rating, saying that "Intuit seems to have positioned itself well with its sharp focus on driving operating efficiency and shareholder value."

    Despite her positive outlook, Meeker toned down revenue estimates for the fiscal year slightly, to $1.31 billion from $1.33 billion.

    The company's "new, emerging businesses and renewed focus on operating efficiency makes us feel pretty good about the business outlook, especially in relation to difficult times," Meeker wrote.

    Deutsche Banc Alex Brown analyst Justin Post reiterated a "strong buy" on the stock, also citing its ability to outperform its peers in a tough economic environment.

    Post said fears of a slow start for the company's tax-related revenue are "overblown." Tax sales at retail have shown improvement over the past four weeks and online filing is up 100 percent from last year, he noted.

    His only concern for the company is slower-than-expected QuickBooks software sales during the quarter. But he added that the company's ability to meet the revenue guidance range for the quarter, despite slower QuickBooks sales, are a testament to Intuit's growing diversity in revenue.