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BEST OF THE BROKERS

PUNCH
Merrill Lynch selects Punch as one of its top pub picks for 2010. It notes that peer Enterprise, its other top pick, recently posted a much improved trading update, and expects Punch to follow suit in early March. Reiterates its “buy” rating, adding that valuations across the sector look “attractive”.
HSBC
UBS reiterates its “buy” rating on HSBC. In spite of its profit forecast for the year being 26 per cent above consensus forecasts, it is confident that it is achievable, and expects the shares to be worth up to £11 by 2012. Expects it to be one of the major banking beneficiaries when short or long treasury rates rise.

WH SMITH
Citigroup advises investors to “buy” WH Smith following its recent trading update. Notes its like-for-like sales were ahead of forecast, and believes its August 2010 forecasts are well underpinned. Forecasts earnings per share of 46.1p for August this year. Praises its strong balance sheet.