The Fight Between Goldman And Barron's Over Johnson & Johnson

| About: Johnson & (JNJ)
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It was a face-off, a steel cage match, between Barron's and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) over Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

Goldman "downgraded" Johnson & Johnson (we'll get to the reason for the condescending quote marks in a moment), and then Barron's did what the media rarely does. Rather than merely playing stenographer to Wall Street reports, it fought back, weighing in with the article "Buy J&J on the Dip":

Though Goldman Sachs downgraded shares to Sell, Johnson & Johnson's diverse pipeline and 3.6% dividend yield remain attractive.

After reading the 15-round fight of an article, it's clear that it's best to side with Barron's and buy Johnson & Johnson, which was down 0.28% in trading yesterday after falling even more sharply intraday. Goldman Sachs is winning again in early trading today, with Johnson & Johnson headed down -- even as Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) are up strong on excitement over Alzheimer's and pain drugs, respectively.

So what's Goldman's beef?

First off, let's not take its beef too seriously. Goldman performed the typical Wall Street do-si-do, dancing both ways. It downgraded Johnson & Johnson from a "Neutral" to a "Sell." Sells -- especially of well-established, large companies with greater than 3.5% dividend yields in this era of low returns -- are a rarity, to say the least. As a result, the analyst must be acting with an honorable level of commitment, right?


Goldman set a $72 price target. Johnson & Johnson is trading in the high $60s. That means Goldman's version of a "Sell" is a small gain. Please. Goldman is trying to have it both ways by pointing both ways. If Johnson & Johnson goes down, Goldman was right! It had the stock rated a "Sell." If Johnson & Johnson goes up, Goldman was right! It had a higher price target.

When a Wall Street firm pulls such transparent nonsense, you'd be well served not to take the rest of its report seriously. It's all designed to serve the firm ... not you.

Goldman flaps its gums about how Johnson & Johnson's valuation is already captured in the price of the stock (again: why the higher target?) and dissed its drug pipeline, but Barron's is right to point to not groundbreaking but still decent potential for anti-b cell and Alzheimer's drugs.

Look: Is Johnson & Johnson the best investment ever? Clearly not. But during an earnings season in which warnings from Alcoa (NYSE:AA) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) have already sent traders scurrying, safety and reliability -- and dividends on the order of 3.6% -- will be rewarded.

Johnson & Johnson offers that, especially with even the haters saying it will go higher. The winner by a knockout in the battle over Johnson & Johnson: Barron's. Eat that mat, Goldman.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.