Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: American Water Works, JB Hunt, Ford, GM, AstraZeneca and More

Stocks hit all-time highs many times during 2017, and the last trading day of the year seems to be off to a strong start. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 25% and the S&P 500 is up about 20%, if you include dividends. Now investors have to weigh what will come to pass in 2018, noting that they have been rewarded over and over for buying the dips at the same time that the bull market is almost nine years old. Investors are hunting for new investing and trading ideas to generate gains and income into 2018 and beyond.

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 investors and traders alike. Some daily analyst reports and research reports cover stocks to buy. Others cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

Additional color and commentary has been added on most of these daily analyst calls. Consensus analyst price targets mentioned and other valuation metrics are from the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

These were the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and other research calls from Friday, December 29, 2017.

American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $105 from $100 at Argus. The firm sees a solid stock with good 2018 guidance and expects the company to benefit from favorable water industry fundamentals. Its shares closed up 0.86% at $91.62 on Thursday, in a 52-week trading range of $69.96 to $92.37 and with a consensus analyst target price of $94.70.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ: JBHT) was given some mixed commentary after its fourth-quarter guidance was below target on one-time items but with raised longer term 2018 and 2019 looking better based on lower tax rates. Merrill Lynch reiterated its Buy rating and raised its price objective to $128 from $117 (versus a $114.23 prior close).

Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: PTLA) was maintained as Outperform with an $80 price target at Oppenheimer, which noted that there was an overreaction to its AndexXa delay that has created a buying opportunity. Shares closed down 1.2% at $47.25 on Thursday.

Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE: RHI) was reiterated as Market Perform but the price target was raised to $58 from $53 at BMO Capital Markets. This is just a day after Deutsche Bank reiterated its Buy rating and raised its target to $65 from $58. The shares closed up 1% at $56.03 on Thursday, in a 52-week range of $42.92 to $57.67.

Syntel Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNT) was downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform with a $21 price target (versus a $24.16 close) at Wells Fargo. Shares were indicated down 2.7% at $23.50 on Friday, and the 52-week range is $15.82 to $26.33.

Evercore ISI has raised its targets on select auto makers and parts suppliers. General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) saw its price target raised to 47 from $40 (versus a $41.38 close) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) saw its target raised to $13 from $10.50 (versus a $12.58 close). BorgWarner Inc.’s (NYSE: BWA) target was raised to $52 from $48 (versus a $52.10 close).

JPMorgan has made two changes to international pharmaceutical picks for 2018. AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE: AZN) was raised to Overweight from Neutral, and Novo Nordisk A/S (NYSE: NVO) was raised to Neutral from Underweight.

Credit Suisse issued a 2018 natural gas outlook. The firm believes that the gassy exploration and production (E&P) companies are discounting $2.70 per million British Thermal Units (MMBTU) as a long-term natural gas price, and valuations are modestly attractive compared to the long-dated (2022) futures curve of $2.89 per MMBtu and its own normalized forecast of $3.00 per MMBtu. Credit Suisse’s top E&P picks are Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO), Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR), Anadarko Petroleum Corp, (NYSE: APC), Cimarex Energy Co. (NYSE: XEC) and Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. (NASDAQ: XOG), and its top gas picks are EQT Corp. (NYSE: EQT) and Range Resources Corp. (NYSE: RRC).

Merrill Lynch has six big, solid dividend picks for 2018.

24/7 Wall St. has issued its own views on 10 things that could wreck the bull market in 2018.

Here are the preliminary Dogs of the Dow for 2018.

Thursday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades were in American Express, Cellectis, ForeScout Technologies, Mastercard, Mueller Water, PG&E, Party City, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Visa and more.

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