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Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Caterpillar, Chesapeake Energy, Exxon, Snap, Symantec, Whole Foods, Yelp and More

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Stocks were indicated to open lower on Thursday after the equity indexes closed very mixed on Wednesday, partly on a cautious view from the Bank of England. It is important to understand that the major U.S. equity indexes are all challenging all-time highs even as this bull market is now more than eight years old. Another issue to consider is that investors have bought every single pullback, and then there is the notion that investors are looking for new trading and investing ideas.

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

These were the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and other research calls on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) was raised to Buy from Neutral at Merrill Lynch, and the firm’s price objective was raised to $120 from $105 in that call. The firm noted that Caterpillar’s monthly retail sales continue to accelerate, that it may raise its dividend over the summer and that it may have another big earnings beat in July.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral and the price objective was cut to $8 from $10 (versus a $5.75 prior close) at Merrill Lynch. Chesapeake has a 52-week trading range of $3.56 to $8.20. The downgrade was simply on the unfavorable impact of a slower oil recovery and with the firm having little upside at current strip prices.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) was raised to Buy from Neutral with a $100 price objective (versus an $82.31 close) at Merrill Lynch. The firm called Exxon an absolute and relative value, noting that its dividend is fully covered with capex and dividend cash coverage trending toward a $40 per barrel break-even by the end of the decade.

Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP) was down 1.5% at $22.98 ahead of earnings on Wednesday and indicated down 23% at $17.67 on Thursday after its earnings report. Snap was maintained as Neutral and the price target was cut to $20 from $24 at JPMorgan. It was raised to Neutral from Underweight and the price target cut to $17 from $18 at Cantor Fitzgerald. Oppenheimer raised Snap’s rating to Outperform from Perform with a $23 price target. Jefferies maintained a Buy rating and kept its high $30 price target in place.

Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight and the target price was raised to $40 from $28 at First Analysis. Symantec has a 52-week range of $16.25 to $33.22 and a consensus analyst price target of $30.17. Symantec was up 2.4% at $33.14 on Wednesday but indicated down 6% at $31.13 on Thursday after reporting a net loss and after it clarified how the cloud is impacting its light revenue forecasts.

Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) had earnings that looked in line with more disappointing guidance. Still, the company named a new CFO and added independent directors. Whole Foods was maintained as Hold but the target price was raised to $39 from $33 at Jefferies. Whole Foods was also raised to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo. The stock was indicated up 3.45% at $37.50 on Thursday, versus a prior 52-week range of $27.67 to $37.33.

Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) closed down 18.4% at $28.33 on Wednesday after poor earnings, and the results were enough to spook most analysts with far lower price targets. Now Yelp actually was raised to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup, but the firm’s price target was lowered to $35 from $39. Yelp was indicated up 3.2% at $29.23 on Thursday.

Other key analyst calls were seen in the following:

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) Was downgraded to Sell from Hold with a $12 price target at Wunderlich.

Acacia Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: ACAC) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Albany Molecular Research Inc. (NASDAQ: AMRI) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

American Renal Associates Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ARA) was raised to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo.

Ascendis Pharma A/S (NASDAQ: ASND) was started with an Overweight rating and assigned a $36 price target (versus a $27.64 close) at JPMorgan.

Carlyle Group L.P. (NASDAQ: CG) was raised to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse.

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy and the price target was lowered to $67 from $68 (versus a $47.35 close) at Merrill Lynch.

GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ: GWPH) was reiterated as Sell with a $61 price target (versus a $106.01 close) at Janney, with the firm noting that the potential rare pediatric disease voucher does still add value.

Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Pegasystems Inc. (NASDAQ: PEGA) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $60 from $50 (versus a $47.55 close) at Wedbush.

Priceline Group Inc. (NASDAQ: PCLN) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $2,100 from $1,950 at Argus.

Synovus Financial Corp. (NYSE: SNV) was raised to Buy from Neutral with a $50 price objective at Merrill Lynch.

Terex Corp. (NYSE: TEX) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral and the price objective was cut to $28 from $36 at Merrill Lynch.

Vitamin Shoppe Inc. (NYSE: VSI) was raised to Equal Weight from Underweight but the price target was cut to $14 from $22 at Morgan Stanley.

Wendy’s Co. (NASDAQ: WEN) was maintained as Overweight but the target price was raised to $18 from $16 at Stephens. Wedbush maintained a Neutral rating but raised its target price to $16 from $14.

Wesco Aircraft Holdings Inc. (NYSE: WAIR) was reiterated as Underperform and the price objective was lowered to $9 (versus an $8.35 close) at Merrill Lynch.

Wolverine World Wide Inc. (NYSE: WWW) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $31 from $30 (versus a $26.04 close) at Wedbush.

Wednesday’s top analyst calls included Alibaba, Electronic Arts, NVIDIA, Occidental Petroleum, SeaWorld, Yelp and many more.

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