Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Abbott Labs, Baxter, Cisco, NOV, Nucor, P&G, Target and Many More

August 17, 2017 by Jon C. Ogg

Stocks were indicated to open lower on Thursday, but even with the turmoil in Washington, D.C., the markets are actually quite close to all-time highs. The trend that has dominated the markets for more than half of the eight-year bull market is that investors have kept finding new reasons to buy stocks after every sell-off. Those same investors are also searching for new investing and trading ideas.

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

Additional color and commentary has been added on most of the daily analyst calls. Consensus analyst price target data are from the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

These were the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and other research calls from Thursday, August 17, 2017.

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) was started as Neutral with a $53 price target (versus a $49.81 prior close) at Citigroup. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $37.38 to $51.13 and a consensus analyst price target of $55.06.

Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX) was started as Neutral with a $63 price target at Citigroup. Baxter has a 52-week range of $43.13 to $63.14 and a consensus price target of $67.25.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) was up 0.8% at $32.34 ahead of earnings on Wednesday, and shares were down 2.6% at $31.50 after a very mixed earnings report showing a shift of software and hardware sales trends. Cisco was maintained as Neutral with a $35 price objective at Merrill Lynch. Cowen has an Outperform rating but lowered its target to $38 from $39, and JPMorgan has a Neutral rating and cut its target to $31.50 from $33. Cisco’s 52-week range is $29.12 to $34.60, and the consensus target price is $35.77.

National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NYSE: NOV) was raised to Buy from Hold with a $40 price target (versus a $29.94 close) at Loop Capital. Shares closed down 1.5% at $29.94 and hit a 52-week low with a weak sector performance on Wednesday. The 52-week range is $29.90 to $43.63, and the consensus price target is $34.93.

Nucor Corp. (NYSE: NUE) was downgraded to Sector Weight from Overweight at KeyBanc Capital Markets. Shares closed up 2.1% at $57.63 on Wednesday and were indicated down 0.6% at $56.40 on Thursday. Nucor’s 52-week range is  $44.81 to $68.00, and its consensus target price is $68.89.

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) was reiterated as Buy with a $103 price target (versus a $92.44 close) at Jefferies. It has a 52-week range of $81.18 to $92.95, and that 52-week high was just hit the prior day. It also has a consensus analyst target of $93.11.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) was raised to Buy from Neutral with a $69 price target at MKM Partners. Target shares closed up 3.6% at $56.31 after earnings, in a 52-week range of $48.56 to $79.33. Target’s consensus analyst target price was last seen at $58.91.

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Thursday’s other top analyst calls were seen as follows:

Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB)  has risen and risen over the past year as a lithium play. After it rose 1.4% to $113.42 on Wednesday, Oppenheimer started it as Outperform with a $133 price target. Albermarle has a 52-week range of $75.11 to $123.48 and a consensus target price of $123.56.

Autodesk Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) was reiterated as Outperform with a $125 price target (versus a $110.49  close) at Wedbush Securities, with the firm noting that second-quarter worries look overdone.

Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) was reiterated as Outperform at Credit Suisse, with the firm noting that the cruise sector outlook remains superior to the outlook of hotels.

Illinois Tool Works (NYSE: ITW) was downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (NYSE: JEC) was reiterated as Buy and kept on the Focus List at Argus, but the firm did lower its price target to $62 from $71 (versus a $51.05 close). The call noted that recent weakness in Jacobs shares offers a buying opportunity.

Kennametal Inc. (NYSE: KMT) was raised to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Molina Healthcare Inc. (NYSE: MOH) was raised to Overweight from Underweight with a $68 price target (versus a $56.78 close) at Morgan Stanley.

Netshoes Ltd. (NYSE: NETS) was downgraded to Hold and the price target was cut to $18.50 from $22 (versus a $16.18 close) at Jefferies, with the firm noting that macro headwinds persist and that there is limited visibility.

Nutanix Inc. (NYSE: NTNX) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $30 price target (versus a $21.73 close) at Jefferies. The firm believes that Nutanix’s valuation doesn’t fully recognize the value of its software.

Synopsys Inc. (NASDAQ: SNPS) was reiterated as Buy and the price objective was raised to $92 from $87 at Merrill Lynch. Credit Suisse reitrerated its Outperform rating as well.

TechTarget Inc. (NASDAQ: TTGT) was downgraded to Hold from Buy with an $11 price target (versus a $9.90 close)  at Jefferies. This downgrade was based on valuation.

Westport Fuel Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: WPRT) was started as Outperform with a $3 price target at Oppenheimer.

Wednesday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades included Agilent Technologies, Biogen, CB&I, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Mylan, Teva Pharmaceutical and more.

According to Merrill Lynch’s strategy team, the S&P 500 forward P/E expanded to 17.7 in July, which marked a more than 13 year high. The firm notes that stocks continue to look attractive relative to bonds, and companies are finally getting it right as share buybacks tend to be rewarded by the market when the purchases are done at cheap valuations. The firm also noted that the July FOMC minutes pointed to balance sheet normalization starting soon, while its participants also debated the next rate hike.

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