Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Akamai, Alexion, Altria, Chipotle, MEI Pharma, Netflix, PayPal and More

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Stocks were indicated to open higher again on Thursday, and the S&P is indicated to be above 2,400 and the Dow is to be above 21,000. The bull market is more eight years old, and investors keep showing that they will buy every big sell-off. Those same investors are also looking for new trading and investing ideas.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day of the week. The goal is to find new investing and trading ideas for our readers. Some of these analyst reports cover stocks to buy and others cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

Some additional color and commentary has been added on most of the following analyst calls. Consensus analyst price targets are from the mean of the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

These were the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and other research calls from Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) was started as Neutral with a $50 price target (versus a $47.62 prior closing price) at Instinet. Akamai has a 52-week trading range of $46.90 to $71.64 and a consensus analyst target price of $63.65.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight with a $138 price target at Morgan Stanley. The shares closed down 3.4% at $101.08 on Wednesday and were indicated up 2.9% at $104.00 on Thursday. Their 52-week range is $98.63 to $157.02, and the consensus target price is $159.53.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) was started with an Overweight rating and assigned a $76 price target (versus a $72.85 close) at Piper Jaffray. Altria has a 52-week range of $60.82 to $76.55, and it has a consensus analyst price of $74.31.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) was raised to Buy from Hold with a $550 price target (versus a $478.80 close) at Argus. The stock was up 0.8% on Wednesday and was indicated up 1% at $484.00 on Thursday. It has a 52-week range of $352.96 to $499.00 and a consensus target price of $447.88.

MEI Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: MEIP) was started as Outperform and assigned a $6 price target (versus a $1.67 close) at Oppenheimer. Shares were indicated up almost 9% at $1.82, in a 52-week range of $1.23 to $2.28.

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) was reiterated as Overweight and the price target was raised to $190 from $166 (versus a $157.75 close) at Piper Jaffray. Netflix was indicated up 1.9% at $160.72 on Thursday, in a 52-week range of $84.50 to $161.78. The consensus target price is $157.68.

PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: PYPL) was downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $51 price target at Stifel, after it closed at $51.05 (three cents shy of its all-time high) in a valuation call. PayPal was indicated down 0.7% at $50.69 on Thursday, in a prior 52-week range of $34.00 to $51.08 and with a consensus target price of $51.38.

Other key analyst calls were seen in the following:

Encore Capital Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ECPG) was started as Outperform and assigned a $45 price target (versus a $38.25 close) at Keefe Bruyette & Woods.

Equinix Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $490 price target (versus a $440.43 close) at Nomura.

Etsy Inc. (NASDAQ: ETSY) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup. Shares closed up 0.7% at $13.40 on Wednesday and were indicated down over 3% at $12.95 on Thursday. Etsy has a 52-week range of $8.56 to $16.05 and a consensus analyst target of $12.34.

General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) was started as Underweight with a $57 price target at Piper Jaffray.

Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) was started as Overweight with a $78 price target at Piper Jaffray.

MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) was raised to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital Markets.

NCS Multistage Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: NCSM) was started with a Buy rating at Citigroup.

PRA Group Inc. (NASDAQ: PRAA) was started as Outperform with a $40 target price (versus a $34.75 close) at Keefe Bruyette & Woods.

ServiceNow Inc. (NYSE: NOW) was started as Overweight and assigned a $120 price target (versus a $103.00 close) at Stephens.

Here are five likely defense stock winners from Merrill Lynch for the Trump budget on defense spending.

Wednesday’s top analyst calls included Accenture, Ciena, Shake Shack, U.S. Steel, Zions Bancorp, China and over a dozen more.

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