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Macquarie downgrades Lincoln National on lack of decent domestic equity market performance

Macquarie analyst Sean Dargan on April 14 downgradedLincoln National Corp.to "neutral" from "outperform," saying the thesis when heacted on the stock inearly 2015 has not played out.

In upgrading the company in January 2015, Dargan noted thatit had lessened the dependence of its new business returns on interest rates,and he cited the consistently high amount of capital returned to shareholdersand its exposure to the strong U.S. equity markets through its retirement planservices segment and variable annuities business.

The analyst noted that the company's main earnings driversare retail life and annuities, and since they have embedded guaranties andlifetime returns that are in part driven by interest rates and equity marketperformance, "we find it hard to place a premium multiple on the earningsstream or future book value for LNC," in light of the current macroenvironment.

He also expects uncertainty around the long-term impact ofthe Department of Labor's fiduciary rule.

Dargan lowered his price target on the company's stock to$44 from $50. He also lowered 2016 EPS estimate to $6.30 from $6.40, 2017estimate to $6.80 from $6.82 and 2018 estimate to $7.60 from $7.77, to reflectlower modeled variable annuity sales and higher operating expenses in theannuity segment related to compliance with the fiduciary rules.