As the bull market has raged higher at the start of 2018, and as the same bull market nears nine years old, it is nothing short of amazing how voracious the appetite has become for stocks. In particular, the appetite for strong stocks posting solid earnings is where the real action is.
24/7 Wall St. has noticed that analysts and investors seem to not be able to get enough of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT). In the first week of 2018 alone, Abbott was among the 20 stocks getting multiple pre-earnings upgrades and target hikes. Now Abbott shares surged on earnings and it has surged on analyst upgrades yet again — and its stock has hit an all-time high.
As noted back on January 6, 2018, Abbott debuted 2018 with two analyst upgrades on the first trading day of the year. JPMorgan raised its rating to Overweight from Neutral and the price target was raised to $65 from $60, citing solid fundamentals and organic growth and new product launches. Morgan Stanley also raised Abbott to Overweight from Neutral and raised its price target to $67 from $60, citing a device pipeline bringing accelerated growth along with deal synergies driving earnings.
Now jump forward to January 25. William Blair just decided to raise its rating to Outperform. CFRA (S&P) also raised its rating to Buy from Hold on Abbott Labs, and its new $70 target compares with a $58 prior target. JPMorgan raised its previously hiked $65 target up to $69, and Morgan Stanley raised its recently hiked target of $67 up to $70 in its call.
In one standout call on Abbott Labs that was not as positive this week ahead of earning, the stock was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BTIG.
Still, other post-earnings price target hikes were raised to $70 on Thursday as follows:
- Barclays (from $66)
- BMO Capital Markets (from $65)
- Merrill Lynch (from $60)
- Raymond James (from $65)
- Wells Fargo (from $66)
According to the Merrill Lynch report, the firm thinks it seems clear that Abbott’s business momentum has returned to high single digits and the $70 price objective assumes that Abbott returns to the higher end of its historical trading range against its one year forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio. With Portico growing by more than 50% in 2017, Merrill Lynch believes that Abbott remains on track for U.S. approval later in 2019 with a data release early in 2019, and that could be yet another underappreciated growth opportunity not factored as much into the shares.
Stifel reiterated its Buy rating and raised its price target to $71 from $63. And Leerink raised its target on Abbott to $68 from $60.
Abbott Labs was up 4.2% at $61.72 on Wednesday, and its shares were up another 2.4% at $63.20 in midday trading on Thursday after all the post-earnings analyst target hikes. Its stock also hit an all-time high price of $64.60 earlier in the day.
Abbott’s prior consensus analyst target price from Thomson Reuters was $61.88 a month ago. It was $66.50 a day earlier and was last seen at $67.44.