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How an Underwhelming BlackBerry Upgrade Rocks Shares Higher

Whenever investors see a big stock pop higher on an analyst upgrade, they generally think that the rating means the stock is now a “screaming buy” or something close to it. But what about when an analyst upgrade just implies that a stock is now just no longer in the “screaming sell” category? This is the case for BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) on Tuesday.

With the well-known and highly visible struggling handset and operating system-maker’s stock performance in recent years, it turns out that investors might just have BlackBerry valued at a point where anything but bad news is treated far better than good news.

BlackBerry shares were upgraded at Morgan Stanley on Tuesday to Equal Weight from Underweight. Here is the kicker – BlackBerry’s mere $7.00 price target was maintained versus the closing price of $7.28 on Monday. So what are investors supposed to think here? Morgan Stanley did remove that equivalent rating of “Sell” but still set a price valuation that is under the share price — and shares were up 6% at $7.72 in mid-Tuesday trading.

Several things were driving this odd reaction. One is that BlackBerry shares have been down handily by one-third of their value in the last couple of months to a new 52-week low. Morgan Stanley also cited a strong cash balance on the books that could be made even better if it has more layoffs or if it chooses to deploy its capital resources differently.

Another driving force is that Morgan Stanley had been one of the biggest bears in BlackBerry. The report was not even all that praising. Morgan Stanley does not see improving business fundamentals, nor does it see a yet-successful software strategy.

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A large short interest is also contributing to BlackBerry’s gains here. The short interest in mid-July was shown to be 105.16 million shares. That is higher than the end of June and was over 10 days to cover. It was even the highest short interest since the first 2015 short interest report in January.

This may have been one of those perfect storms for investors. A high short interest in an oversold stock, removing a long-time bearish rating, and a climate where investors want a shot of catching a serious recovery can be powerful. This is one of those rare instances where you just know that investors are looking to grab hold of any good news that they can find.

BlackBerry’s $7.72 share price in mid-afternoon trading on Tuesday compares with a consensus price target of $8.81 and with a 52-week range of $7.15 to $12.63.

By Jon C. Ogg