Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Five Below, Ericsson, United Rentals and More

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Stocks were looking for direction Friday morning, quite similar to Thursday morning. Still, with the market effectively being near 2016 highs, there has been a willingness for risk again. Investors have clearly reverted back to the trend of buying pullbacks that prevailed from 2011 to 2015.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each morning of the week to find new investing and trading ideas. Some of these analyst reports cover stocks to buy, while other reports cover stocks to sell or avoid.

These are top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen Friday morning:

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) was up 0.6% at $780.00 going into earnings, but the stock was indicated almost 5% lower at $742.80 after earnings disappointed. The company formerly known as Google was maintained as Outperform with a $920 price target at Credit Suisse. Merrill Lynch maintained its Buy rating but said that earnings were not up to snuff, with the admission that fundamentals are intact, lowering its price objective to $925 from $945. Alphabet has a 52-week trading range of $532.24 to $810.35.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was reiterated as Buy at Merrill Lynch, but the firm lowered its price objective to $125 from $130 ahead of next week’s earnings, based on iPhone sales mix to reflect a lower selling price and margin from the iPhone SE. Merrill Lynch also said that it expects Apple to announce a new buyback authorization and dividend increase with earnings. Shares closed at $105.97, with a consensus price target of $133.64 and a 52-week range of $92.00 to $134.54.


Microsoft Corp.

(NASDAQ: MSFT) was indicated to open down about 5% at $52.95 after earnings. BMO Capital Markets maintained its Outperform rating but lowered its target to $57 from $58. Merrill Lynch reiterated its Buy rating and $65 price objective, with the note that the stock likely will have to mark time until the second half of this calendar year due to a lack of obvious catalysts. Credit Suisse lowered earnings estimates but maintained its Outperform rating and $62.50 price target. The 52-week range is $39.72 to $56.85.

Five Below Inc. (NASDAQ: FIVE) was started as Outperform with a $47 price target (versus $41.04 close, and versus a prior $40 target in old coverage) at Credit Suisse. The firm said that Five Below has a differentiated business model from other discounters and is the best in class growth story of the lot. Five Below has a consensus analyst price target of $41.82 and has a 52-week range of $26.95 to $42.88.

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), or just Ericsson to the rest of us, saw shares drop 15% to $8.27 with heavy trading volume on Thursday after its earnings fell short and with a reorganization. Bernstein downgraded Ericsson to Market Perform from Outperform. Shares hit a new low for the year and now have a 52-week range of $8.23 to $11.81.

United Rentals Inc. (NYSE: URI) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel. Also, Merrill Lynch downgraded it to Underperform based on being more positive on machinery but less positive about the rental companies. RBC also downgraded it to Sector Perform from Outperform. United Rentals closed up almost 8% at $64.87 on Thursday and was indicated down almost 2% at $63.70 on Friday. It has a consensus price target of $59.61 and a 52-week range of $41.90 to $105.83.

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Other key analyst upgrades and downgrades from this Friday were seen in shares of the following companies: