Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Biogen, Exxon, MarkWest, Yum! and More

Stocks are again challenging news high, and earnings season has all but ended. Investors still worry about buying the top and about the next major market correction. 24/7 Wall St. looks over dozens of analyst research reports each morning, on the hunt for new ideas for its readers. Some are stocks to buy, others are stocks to sell. These are this Thursday’s top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen from Wall Street research firms.

Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) was raised to Outperform from Market Perform with a $422 price target (versus a $339 close and a $353.47 all-time high) at BMO Capital Markets.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) was maintained Neutral and the earnings estimates were lowered due to full valuations after the company’s 2014 drilling and capex targets by Credit Suisse. Merrill Lynch is simply maintaining its Neutral rating because any catalyst for a near-term rebound was likely pushed out until growth restarts in 2015.

MarkWest Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: MWE) was downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at J.P. Morgan. Keep in mind that this master limited partnership was downgraded at RBC Capital Markets, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley within the past week or so.

Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) was raised to Outperform from Neutral with an $87 price target (versus a $74.81 close), based on a China recovery after the 2013 problems, at R.W. Baird. The firm even is calling for 10% earnings growth as sustainable due to emerging market expansion.

Other Key Analyst Calls

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) was raised to Buy with price target of $96 at Argus.

Axiall Corp. (NYSE: AXLL) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the price target was raised to $60 from $45 (versus a $42.04 close) at Goldman Sachs.

Consolidated Edison Inc. (NYSE: ED) was raised to Buy with a price target of $60, based on valuation and dividend yield at Argus.

Emeritus Corp. (NYSE: ESC) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank.

Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (NYSE: JLL) was resumed with a Buy rating and $149 price target (versus a $122.63 close) by Goldman Sachs.

Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: KPTI) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $48 from $40 at Merrill Lynch, based on the potential use in solid tumors and significant catalysts in 2014.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) was reiterated as Buy with an $82 price target (versus a $76.67 close) with raised earnings estimates at Sterne Agee. Argus also maintained its Buy rating after the buyback and dividend news.

Spark Networks Inc. (NYSE: LOV) was downgraded to Hold from Buy and the price target was cut to $6 from $10 (versus a $5.75 close) at Canaccord Genuity. The firm said that the fourth-quarter report portends a temporary pause in growth.

Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) was raised to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup.

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