Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Abercrombie, Altria, Anthem, United Continental, Blackstone, AMAG Pharma and More

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Stocks hit all-time highs at the end of 2016, and they have been looking for direction after a gap-up did not really hold on the first day of 2017. With a pro-growth and pro-business climate taking shape, investors are still looking for deeper value and growth opportunities ahead. They are also still buying all the pullbacks in a bull market that is almost eight years old.

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

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out the year 2016 at 19,762.60 on December 30, up 13.4% for the year. The S&P 500 ended the year at 2,238.83, up 9.5% from the 2,043.94 close of 2015, and Nasdaq closed at 5,383.12 for a gain of just 7.5%, versus the 5,007.41 close at the end of 2015.

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

Abercrombie  & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) took some downgrades on Tuesday, but on Wednesday it was raised to Market Perform from Underperform with a $13 price target (versus a $12.11 prior close) at FBR Capital Markets. Shares were actually up 0.9% on Tuesday and were indicated up another 1% at $12.24 on Wednesday.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the price objective was raised to $75 from $70 at Merrill Lynch. Despite a rotation out of bond proxies, the firm’s analysts are positive on Altria given what could be some positive developments from economic impacts and from corporate taxes that may be in the offing.

Anthem Inc. (NYSE: ANTM) was downgraded to Hold from Buy with a $155 price target (versus a $143.24 close) at Stifel Nicolaus. It has a 52-week trading range of $114.85 to $148.26 and a market cap of almost $38 billion.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform with a $75 price target (versus a $72.71 close) at Cowen. The 52-week range is $37.41 to $76.80. It is among the largest of the airlines in the world with a $23 billion market cap.

Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE: BX) is rated as Outperform at Credit Suisse, but the firm added Blackstone to its U.S. Focus List (while removing U.S. Silica from that list). At $28.12, Blackstone has a 52-week range of $22.31 to $30.25

AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAG) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a fair value of $45.00 (versus a $34.80 close) at Janney. The firm noted that its introduction of a new formulation of Makena triggered an 11% market share gain, on a doubling in prescriptions in just six months, and that it expects growth to continue well into 2017.

24/7 Wall St. has broken the morning analyst calls into two groups on Wednesday because there were so many energy (oil and gas) upgrades and downgrades (FULL ENERGY LIST) that they needed their own report. Other key analyst upgrades and downgrades seen this Wednesday were seen in shares of the following companies: