U.S. Markets closed

Marriott up as analyst lifts rating, price target

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Marriott climbed Wednesday as an analyst lifted her rating on the hotel operator, saying there is a buying opportunity for the stock in part because of a relatively stable forecast for a key North American revenue figure.

THE SPARK: Robin Farley of UBS boosted Marriott International Inc. to "Buy" from "Neutral" and increased her price target to $52 from $44.

THE ANALYSIS: Farley predicted in a client note that Marriott's revenue per available room will rise 5 percent in 2013. The analyst foresees an approximately 6 percent increase in the figure in North America.

Revenue per available room, or revpar, is a key gauge of a lodging company's health.

Farley said that Marriott also stands to benefit from higher government per diem rates, which were recently raised for the first time in two years. Marriott's higher exposure to the Washington, D.C., market than rival Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. also gives it potential access to more government-related business.

Farley said Marriott is also an attractive stock purchase because it has underperformed its peers and the broader market this year.

A representative for Marriott did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

SHARE ACTION: Up $1.63, or 3.9 percent, to $43.24 in afternoon trading. The stock hit $43.25 earlier in the session, slightly below its 52-week high of $44.45. So far this year, the shares are up 12 percent.