SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.'s stock surged 4.9% in morning trade Monday to an eight-month high, after Goldman Sachs upgraded the theme-park operator on the belief that sentiment should begin improving and attendance is likely to bottom out soon. Analyst Afua Ahwoi raised the stock's rating to buy from neutral, and the price target to $26 from $18. "Our upgrade is predicated on our view that the SeaWorld brand can regain a place in the consumer's mindset," Ahwoi wrote in a note to clients. "In other words, we do not think attendance will decline in perpetuity." Ahwoi is also upbeat on SeaWorld's new Chief Executive Joel Manby, who has experience improving brands. The stock has run up 26% year to date, but was still down 24% over the last year compared with the S&P 500's 14% climb, as attendance has declined amid negative publicity over the treatment of killer whales. Meanwhile, Ahwoi downgraded Six Flags Entertainment to neutral from buy on valuation concerns, and the stock fell 2.3% in morning trade.
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