24/7 Wall St. Top Analyst Calls of the Week (AAPL, BAC, BSX, GOOG, HGSI, JNPR, NDAQ, NEM, P, PCLN, RIMM, SGEN, SQNM, SLM, VVUS, VMW, INT, JPM, GOOG)

August 27, 2011 by Jon C. Ogg

Each morning we review our top upgrades, downgrades, and initiations from Wall Street analysts.  At the end of the week, we review these more closely along with other calls made throughout the week and we find many calls which highlight underlying catalysts or developments that go far beyond the impact of a call on one day.

These become the top analyst calls of the week.  This last week there were many such calls with keen insight and some which stand out from the pack… For better or worse.

This last week’s top research calls were in shares of the following: Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL); Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC); Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX); Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG); Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI); Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE: JNPR); NASDAQ OMX Group (NASDAQ: NDAQ); Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM); Pandora Media, Inc. (NYSE: P); Priceline.com Incorporated (NASDAQ: PCLN); Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM); Seattle Genetics Inc. (NASDAQ: SGEN); Sequenom Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM); SLM Corporation (NYSE: SLM); VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS); VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW); and World Fuel Services Corporation (NYSE: INT).

We have included the impact and pricing data on each, as well as added in some outside trading color if applicable.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was in the news after the departure of Steve Jobs as CEO.  What is interesting is that almost every research analyst out there came out and defended Apple saying that this was mostly factored in and that the prospects for Apple remain solid.  Here were some of the calls that we saw:

  • Maintained Overweight at JPMorgan;
  • Maintained Outperform at Credit Suisse;
  • Maintained Buy at BofA/ML;
  • Reiterated Buy at Canaccord Adams;
  • Maintained Buy at Gabelli;
  • Maintained Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC) had a huge week after securing Warren Buffett as an investor and on news that it was set to sell half its stake in China Construction Bank as another stealth capital raise.  Here is what was odd.  On a day that a crazy rumor was out there that BofA might be taken over by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), J.P. Morgan’s credit analysis team actually raised their ratings on the Bank of America credit calling the selling way overdone on the downside.  BofA’s equity research team repaid the favor the day before Buffett’s investment by downgrading estimates and targets of rival money center banks.

Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX) can use all the help it can get usually.  This one was reiterated as a “Buy” rating at Zacks Investment Research, but more important is that it was the Value Stock of the Day even though Morgan Keegan cut the rating to a “Market Perform” rating on the same day.   Shares were around $6.35 on Friday afternoon and the 52-week range is $5.04 to $7.96.  Literally finding anything bullish about Boston Scientific is worth noting these days.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) was a strange call this week.  S&P removed its sell rating after literally a few days, due to the price target objective being hit.  Then on Wednesday came a new coverage call from Robert W. Baird with an ‘Outperform’ rating on the stock.

Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) had a rough week and the call did not really go in favor of the analyst yet.  The Lupus drug company was initiated with a “Buy” rating at Brean Murray.  More important is the $22.00 price target when you consider that shares are under $13.00.  This one has lost its mojo but at least one big bull is still there with a 52-week trading range of $11.84 to $30.48.

Juniper Networks, Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has been battered and beaten as a networking equipment stock that lost its way.  Shares were under $21.00 on Friday and the 52-week trading range is $19.63 to $45.01.  This stock was raised to Outperform from Market Perform at Morgan Keegan and the price target objective was $27.00.  This one is on sale now and this call is still well under the consensus price target above $30.00.

NASDAQ OMX Group (NASDAQ: NDAQ) is believed to not be in as much trouble over any financial transaction tax proposals in Europe.  UBS decided on Thursday to raise the rating to “Buy” at UBS.  Shares were around $22.65 late on Friday and the 52-week range is $17.81 to $29.71. The report called the electronic exchange a deep discount at great valuations and even noted that it had a defensive nature that would hold up well in a downturn.  That logic may seem flawed but the call was a day after Raymond James raised the rating to “Strong Buy” on at least some of the same logic.

Newmont Mining Corp. (NYSE: NEM) is one of the gold miners that is driving the sector and it has the best dividend of its peers as well.  This last Monday it was Raised to Buy from Hold at Citigroup.  More importantly, Citi raised the price target to $80 from $55 for a huge gain in the outlook.  Everyone knows that gold has to stabilize and/or remain high, but the earnings growth here should be massive considering the higher prices locked in.  RBC also raised its rating up to “Sector Perform” later in the week on Thursday due to increased earnings power.

Pandora Media, Inc. (NYSE: P) managed to do better than expected on earnings as it grew members.  It also is not losing as much per customer some thought.  Bank of America Merrill Lynch reiterated its “Buy” rating on Friday but raised the target to an above-consensus target at $19.00 now.  Shares were around $13.50 late on Friday and that leaves plenty of upside if even the consensus price target of $17.44 is hit.

Priceline.com Incorporated (NASDAQ: PCLN) is one that had been on a major move this year.  Any analyst upgrade or initiation may seem late to the party now.  Still, Credit Suisse started new coverage on Tuesday with an Outperform rating.  More important is that $720.00 price target.  Shares were right around $500.00 late on Friday and the stock was around $450.00 when that positive call was made.  That is a 10% gain in the week with a lot of perceived upside left (still over 40%) if it makes it anywhere close to the target.  Keep in mind that this was under $100 as recently as mid-2009.

Research in Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) is a stock which we have real questions about in the years ahead, whether Steve Jobs is gone from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) or not.  iPhone and Android from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) rule, Blackberry does not even serve.  It is in the king’s dungeon.  To see an analyst upgrade is rare right now, particularly if the call on Friday has any real merit.  The stock was raised to “Buy” from Neutral at Stern Agee and the prior $28 target was lifted to $35 on new product hopes.  The company went out on a limb with this call noting the new Blackberry 7 OS will help have the strongest product cycle in some time.  The caveat is a concern over competitive risks and over margin compression.  Those are risks, but the big risk anyone needs to understand is relevance.  Shares were back up to over $29 late on Friday, up considerably from the recent lows of about $22.00.

Seattle Genetics Inc. (NASDAQ: SGEN) is a call that is so far not working out very well.  After it received the first FDA approval this last week, some maintained a positive bias.  Not Canaccord Genuity.  The firm reiterated its “Sell” rating with a dismal $10.00 price target.  Shares closed at $ with $10 target at $15.04 a week ago and the stock was above $16.50 late on Friday.

Sequenom Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM) can use all the help it can get after the scandals have rocked the company in the past.  The stock was initiated as “Outperform” at William Blair on Friday.  The stock was up to $5.65 (over 5%) late on Friday and the 52-week range is $5.07 to $8.71.  The consensus price target was $7.85 on this one and it has seemed to begin the process of a turnaround if the research call is correct.

SLM Corporation (NYSE: SLM) is the old student loan player which saw its business model gutted in education loan reform.  It lost most of its fans, and any remaining fans tend to be fair weather fans.  Not this last week.  On Monday it was surprising to see that SLM was raised by Credit Suisse to ‘Outperform’ from ‘Neutral.’  The price target was lifted to $18.00 from $16.00 as well.  Shares were under $13.75 late on Friday.

VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) was reiterated as “Buy” with a $9 target on Wednesday at BofA Merrill Lynch.  What is interesting about this one is that many analysts have not covered it and this was on the heels of a questionable private financing of $45.8 million at a deep discount this last week.  Some brokerage firms use the opportunity to bash a stock or even to throw the towel in for the stock, but not this call.  It sounded like a ringing endorsement.

VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) was raised to Outperform at Pacific Crest on Friday. The report calls for its big mistake of its change in pricing as effectively being a mistake learned that it would not repeat.  Some are still concerned that real damage was done, but that is still up in the air when you consider that the stock has bounced so much.  Shares were up over 4% at almost $84.00 late on Friday and the 52-week range is $71.04 to $111.43.

World Fuel Services Corporation (NYSE: INT) was not the typical “value stock” we usually track, but don’t tell it to Zacks Investment Research.  They named it “Value Stock of the Day” on Friday and shares rose on the report.  The company supplies fuel for marine, aviation and land customers at more than 6,000 locations in 200 countries.  What is interesting here is that around $35.00, the 52-week high is $42.15 and the consensus analyst price target is still north of $44.00 per share.

Elsewhere this week we covered the key technology leaders trading too cheap as the Value Stocks are all well under 10-times existing and expected earnings.  Another key call was from Citigroup, lowering the global GDP growth targets for 2011 and 2012.

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