Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Honeywell, Kraft, Staples, Valero and More

Jon C. Ogg

Stocks have pulled back over the past week, after eight straight weeks of rallying. Now investors are getting ready for year-end and positioning themselves for 2014. 24/7 Wall St. goes over dozens of Wall Street analyst reports each morning, looking for ideas for our readers. Some are stocks to buy, some are stocks to sell. These are this Monday’s top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen from Wall Street research firms.

Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) may seem like a normal day to get its Buy rating reiterated by Sterne Agee. At issue is that the price target was raised to $104, because this is now the highest price target on the street for the conglomerate, after it closed at $88.32. The firm said that Honeywell’s focus on developing and deploying turnkey technologies in industrial markets and internal improvements has allowed the company to meet margin goals one year ahead of plan, and it also believes that this is far from the end of a growth phase.

Kraft Foods Inc. (NASDAQ: KRFT) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight with a $60 price target (versus a $53.55 closing price) at Morgan Stanley.

Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) was reiterated as Buy, estimates were raised and the price target was raised to $18 from $17, versus $15.96, at Argus. The firm’s expectation is that CEO Ron Sargent and his management team will expand existing initiatives to cut costs and will also grow the $10 billion online business which is overlooked by many investors.

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) was raised to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank. Valero also was raised to Neutral from Underweight at J.P. Morgan.

These are the additional calls also worth noting this Monday:

Center Bancorp Inc. (NASDAQ: CNBC) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Sterne Agee due to valuation.

Dean Foods Co. (NYSE: DF) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

EZCorp Inc. (NASDAQ: EZPW) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy with a $12 price target at Sterne Agee.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) raised to Neutral from Underweight at J.P. Morgan

Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) was raised to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank.

Smith & Nephew PLC (NYSE: SNN) was initiated as Buy with a $77 price target at Canaccord Genuity.

Stonegate Mortgage Corp. (NYSE: SGM) was started with a Neutral rating and $19 price target at Sterne Agee.

We have tracked more than a dozen research changes to the Goldman Sachs Conviction Buy List for its top values in 2014. Many of these price targets are at the street high target prices from all analysts on Wall Street.