Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Discover Financial, Juniper Networks, Kellogg, Micron, NetApp, Rio Tinto, Synchrony Financial, UnitedHealth and More

December 7, 2016 by Jon C. Ogg

Stocks closed higher Tuesday and Monday but were looking for direction on Wednesday morning. All in all, the markets are right at all-time highs, and the 19,000 Dow Jones Industrial Average has a shot at rising to 22,000 if the animal spirits grab hold in 2017. A lot has to go right for that to occur. Still, even with a bull market that is almost eight years old, the appetite is to buy shares on pullbacks. Investors are also looking for new ideas for gains or income.

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

These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen on Wednesday morning:

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) was raised to Outperform from Neutral with a $78 price target at Wedbush Securities. The stock closed at $68.38 and has a 52-week trading range of $42.86 to $68.90. The Thomson Reuters consensus analyst price target is $70.43.

Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) was raised to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, and the price target was raised to $31 from $27. Shares closed at $26.93 and have a 52-week range of $21.18 to $29.86. The consensus price target was $27.75.

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Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $77 price target (versus a $71.97 prior close) at Credit Suisse. The 52-week range is $68.73 to $87.16, and the consensus price target is $82.35.

Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $30 price target (versus a $19.06 close) at Citigroup. It has a 52-week range of $9.31 to $20.44 and a consensus analyst target of $21.00.

NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, and the price target was cut to $29 from $30 (versus a $35.97 close). Shares were indicated down almost 4%, and the stock has a 52-week range of $20.66 to $39.00.

Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE: RIO) was raised to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse. The switch was from BHP and was because of vanishing iron ore surplus, attractive valuation and a stronger balance sheet for additional shareholder returns.

Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Wedbush. It closed at $35.66 and has a 52-week range of $23.25 to $35.70. The consensus price target is $37.75.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) was raised to Buy from Hold with a $200 price target (versus a $157.32 close) at Cantor Fitzgerald. The consensus price target is $176.32, and the 52-week range is $107.51 to $162.52.

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Other key analyst upgrades and downgrades were seen as follows:

Bank of Montreal (NYSE: BMO) was raised to Buy from Hold at Canaccord Genuity.

Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. (NYSE: CBI) was started as Buy with a $43 price target (versus a $33.38 close) at Argus. This was also one of the more recent projected Trump infrastructure winners, and it has a 52-week range of $26.12 to $41.33. The consensus price target was $36.00.

HD Supply Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: HDS) was downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $38 price target (versus a $40.89 close) at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

IDEX Corp. (NYSE: IEX) was downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform with a $101 price target (versus a $95.27 close) at RBC Capital Markets.

MercadoLibre Inc. (NASDAQ: MELI) was raised to Buy from Neutral with a $200 price target (versus a $157.55 close) at Goldman Sachs.

Murphy Oil Corp. (NYSE: MUR) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

Navient Corp. (NASDAQ: NAVI) was started with a Hold rating and with an $18 price target at Jefferies.

Oil States International Inc. (NYSE: OIS) was raised to Overweight from Neutral with a $42 price target (versus a $36.95 close) at JPMorgan.

Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PTEN) was raised to Neutral from Underweight and the price target was raised to $24 from $14 (versus a $28.59 close) at JPMorgan.

SLM Corp. (NASDAQ: SLM) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $12.50 price target (versus a $10.78 close) at Jefferies.

Verisk Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSK) was started with a Hold rating and assigned an $85 price target (versus an $83.04 close) at Deutsche Bank.

There are 10 major biopharma catalysts and FDA events that could create major moves in December alone.

Speaking of infrastructure, Deutsche Bank is raising expectations on five steel giants.

Eleven undervalued Dow stocks have to play a part in getting the Dow to 22,000

Four top dividends should be bargains even in rising interest rates.

Jefferies sees four top banks having more room to run higher.

Tuesday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades included Arista Networks, McDonald’s, TripAdvisor, Newmont Mining, Nike, Visa and over a dozen more.