Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Applied Materials, Cerner, Cisco, J&J, Level 3, Salesforce and Many More

Stocks were indicated to open marginally higher on Monday despite a global hack spreading. The major market indexes are all within striking distance of all-time highs. It is also important to consider that this bull market is now more than eight years old and investors have bought every single pullback. Those same investors are also 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 from Monday, May 15, 2017.

Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $50 from $43 at Needham. Its shares closed at $43.44 on Friday, in a 52-week trading range of $19.54 to $43.64 and with a consensus analyst target price of $41.43. While Applied Materials shares are now trading above the consensus target price, note that the prior street-high analyst target ahead of this call was $45.

Cerner Corp. (NASDAQ: CERN) was raised to Neutral from Underperform with a $66 price target (versus a $64.36 prior closing price) at Merrill Lynch. It has a 52-week range of $47.01 to $67.50 and a consensus price target of $64.75. This report noted that a new Merrill Lynch survey suggested that the downturn in hospital spending on HCIT is likely to be less severe and have a shorter duration than the firm’s prior beliefs, and the firm also upgraded Cerner for its Veterans Affairs (VA) contract opportunity.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) was raised to Equal Weight from Overweight with a $39 price target at Morgan Stanley. Cisco shares closed down 0.5% at $33.45 on Friday, and the stock was indicated up 2% at $34.12 on Monday. Its 52-week range is $26.49 to $34.60 and it has a consensus price target of $35.84. Cisco’s street-high analyst target is up at $42.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) was raised to Overweight from Neutral with a $140 price target (versus a $123.64 close) at JPMorgan. Its shares were indicated up 0.8% at $124.67 on Monday morning. Analysts have a consensus price target of $129.00 on Johnson & Johnson, and the 52-week range is $109.32 to $129.00.

Level 3 Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: LVLT) was downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James. Shares closed up 0.27% at $59.09 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $44.01 to $61.43 and with a consensus target price of $62.82. As a reminder, CenturyLink is in the process of acquiring Level 3, and CenturyLink recently had a stake added by the activist hedge fund Corvex Management. Inc. (NYSE: CRM) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $100 from $92 at BMO Capital Markets. Wedbush Securities reiterated its Outperform rating and $102 price target, with the firm noting that demand trends have been improving since December across the software universe and that Salesforce’s work to accelerate its adoption in large enterprises is bearing fruit. After rising 1.5% on Friday, it was indicated up 1% higher at $89.90 on Monday.

Other key analyst calls were seen in the following:

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