Stock prices for HCA, Province Healthcare Co., Tenet Healthcare Corp., Triad Hospitals and Universal Health Services hit new 52-week highs Tuesday after a positive first-quarter outlook by HCA boosted investors' confidence in the industry. Community Health Systems and LifePoint Hospitals also saw their share prices rise. Prudential analyst David Shove said that the improved patient volume and reduced bad debt cited by HCA signaled improving fundamentals for the hospital sector overall. Bear Stearns analyst Jason Gurda, however, said the outlook may reflect normal seasonal factors more than an improving operating environment. HCA's "stock may become overextended, in our view, as some may assume the (first-quarter) upside indicates a secular improvement in HCA's operating environment, not just normal seasonality," Gurda said in a research note. "We are concerned that some investors expecting dramatic upside in the remainder of (2005) may be disappointed." HCA projected first-quarter earnings per share of 88 cents to 93 cents, compared with 69 cents in the year-ago quarter. -- by the Associated Press
Hospital stocks rise following HCA earnings outlook
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