U.S. Markets closed

Ahead of the Bell: Rent-A-Center

NEW YORK (AP) -- An analyst cut Rent-A-Center's rating and price target on Friday, citing ongoing softness in its core rent-to-own business.

Laura Champine of Canaccord Genuity lowered Rent-A-Center Inc.'s rating to "Hold" from "Buy" and reduced its price target to $37 from $42.

Champine said that it seems like Rent-A-Center is neglecting the core rent-to-own portion of its business, instead concentrating on kiosks, international efforts and other areas. The analyst said that the company's lower-income customers struggled with tax refund delays, payroll tax hikes, and increased gas prices early in the first quarter and believes these consumers will still face pressure from higher taxes and a slow employment recovery.

Champine said she doesn't think recent buybacks will be enough to mask weakness in the core rent-to-own business.

A representative for Rent-A-Center did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Its shares finished at $35.80 on Thursday. Thy have traded in a 52-week range of $31.22 to $38.23.