Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was cut to neutral from buy by UBS analyst Michael Lasser on Thursday. Lasser said Wal-Mart shares have climbed 11%, or about $25 billion in market cap, in the last month. "At this level, we think shares present equal upside and downside (risk)," he said. While lower gasoline prices should help Wal-Mart and could add $2.5 billion in additional annual sales, he said that was already priced in its stock price. He said with the early holiday season's start pointing to a decline, it also was a reminder that Wal-Mart faces an intensely challenging landscape. "The bar to entice customers has moved structurally higher across retail," Lasser said. Wal-Mart "is doing an effective job of competing in this age, but it'll just get harder as others raise their game." See related holiday story.
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