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Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: LinkedIn, Safeway, NII Holdings, Rangold, EP Energy and More

Stocks are challenging new highs again and earnings season is just about over. Investors are carefully deciding how to position themselves for gains ahead and to avoid the next serious sell-off. 24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of Wall Street analyst research reports each morning, on the hunt for new ideas. Some ideas cover stocks to buy, other analyst calls are on stocks to sell. These are this Wednesday’s top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen from Wall Street research firms.

LinkedIn Corp. (NYSE: LNKD) was raised to Outperform from Sector Perform and the price target was raised to $250 from $225 at RBC Capital Markets, which is on the heels of the news that LinkedIn is expanding into China. Shares were up more than 5% on the news on Tuesday and are trading up another 2% around $214 on Wednesday.

J.P. Morgan is having a change of heart in the traditional grocery store space. Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) was raised to Overweight from Neutral and Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) was downgraded to Neutral from Overweight, despite it being in potential private equity talks.

NII Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: NIHD) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie, but keep in mind that this troubled Latin American telecom player has already bounced some 45% from its lows. This is on the heels of the recent disclosure that the head of business development is resigning at the end of this week.

Randgold Resources Ltd. (NASDAQ: GOLD) was started as Buy at UBS, and the overseas price target implies upside of 11%. UBS did warn that after the big pop seen that volatility and profit taking could come into play to create attractive entry points. UBS believes it is the best name for high quality gold exposure.

EP Energy Corp. (NYSE: EPE) saw its quiet period end and brokers started coverage favorably — Outperform at Credit Suisse, Buy at Deutsche Bank, Buy at Goldman Sachs, Overweight at J.P. Morgan and Outperform at Wells Fargo. We recently featured the segment on more woes for MLPs.

Other Key Analyst Calls

Exterran Partners L.P. (NYSE: EXLP) was raised to Outperform from Neutral and the target was raised to $32 from $31 (versus a $28.51 close) by Credit Suisse, based on valuation and improving prospects.

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) was downgraded to Sell from an already cautious Neutral rating by Citigroup.

Incyte Corp. (NASDAQ: INCY) was reinstated as Buy and with an $84 price target (versus a $68.37 close) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) was reiterated as Outperform with a $70 price target (versus a $57.03 close) at Credit Suisse after the bank’s 2014 investor day presentation.

Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) was downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray. The call seems to be on valuation after the recent run up after activist pressure and earnings.

Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) was maintained Buy at Merrill Lynch after Tuesday’s 8.8% drop to $4.88. The firm called the drop a temporary step back but said that its synergies targets were raised to at least $600 million. The firm lowered its price target to $6 in the call, but this is still above the $5.85 year high and above the $4.61 consensus price target.

Phillips 66 Partners L.P. (NYSE: PSXP) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform but the price target was raised to $47 from $42 (versus a $46.28 close) by Credit Suisse. More woes for MLPs?

Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE: RL) was raised to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo, and the price target range was moved up to $186 to $197 versus a prior target range of $166 to $171.

Valero Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: VLP) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $38 price target (versus a $38.22 close) at Credit Suisse. More woes for MLPs?