Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Cree, Home Depot, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, Oracle, Valeant, Valero and More

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Stocks were indicated to open higher (+9 on S&P 500 and +100 Dow Jones Industrial Average) after continued gains so far in 2018. Investors are looking to position their portfolios for 2018 and beyond now that the bull market is nearing nine years old and bond yields are rising. The trend that keeps winning is for investors to buy on pullbacks.

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 investors and traders alike. Some of these 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 the daily analyst reports. The consensus analyst price targets mentioned and other valuation metrics are from the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

24/7 Wall St. has also identified 10 top technology giants, actually nine after Netflix, that analysts have grown more bullish for strong earnings and guidance ahead of their formal earnings reports in the next couple of weeks.

These were the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and other research calls from Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

Allegheny Technologies Inc. (NYSE: ATI) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Aramark Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: ARMK) was reinstated as Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Catalent Inc. (NYSE: CTLT) was started as Buy with a $50 price target (versus a $44.76 prior close) at Goldman Sachs.

Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) was raised to Hold from Sell with a $32 price target (versus a $35.02 close) at Williams Capital.

HollyFrontier Corp. (NYSE: HFC) was started as Underperform with a $40 price target (versus a $51.72 close) at Jefferies.

Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $222 from $183 (versus a $204.90 close) at Credit Suisse, noting positive management meetings.

Huntington Bancshares Inc. (NASDAQ: HBAN) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform with a $16.50 price target (versus a $16.04 close) at Macquarie.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB) was maintained as Sell but the price target was cut to $112 from $113 (versus a $117.84 close) at Citigroup.

LendingTree Inc. (NASDAQ: TREE) was started as Hold at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ MSFT) was started as Buy with a $102 price target at Instinet in a late-Tuesday call. The stock was up 0.3% at $91.90 on Tuesday and was indicated up 0.5% at $92.35 on Wednesday. The consensus price target was $96.06.

Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) was started as Buy with a $64 price target at Instinet in a late-Tuesday call. Oracle was up 0.8% at $51.12 on Tuesday and was indicated up 0.3% at $51.27 on Wednesday. Its consensus analyst target was $55.77.

Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: TXN) was last seen trading down 6.7% at $111.80 after earnings from the prior evening. Citigroup reiterated its Buy rating and raised its price target to $135 from $110. Credit Suisse maintained an Outperform rating with a $125 price target.

Total System Services Inc. (NYSE: TSS) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $100 from $94 (versus an $83.92 close) at Citigroup.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) was downgraded to In-Line from Outperform at Evercore ISI. Its shares were indicated down 7.8% at $71.90 as its capacity outlook was given more weighting than its beat on earnings and revenues.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (NYSE: VRX) was started as Sell with an $18 price target (versus a $22.30 close) at Goldman Sachs. It was indicated to open down 4.7% at $21.25 on Wednesday.

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) was maintained as Neutral but the price target was raised to $96 from $76 (versus a $98.69 close) at Citigroup. Valero shares were last seen up 1.5% at $100.15 after announcing a stock buyback and dividend hike.

On Tuesday, Merrill Lynch raised its S&P 500 target to 3,000 (from 2,800) for 2018 and set a longer-term target of 3,500.

Credit Suisse has said that of the 45 stocks in the S&P 500 that have provided tax guidance, the overall tax burden is so far down by 6.6% and their 2018 EPS estimates have risen by 9.7% on average.

Tuesday’s top analyst calls were in Amgen, Caterpillar, Dollar General, Duke Energy, General Electric, Honeywell, 3M, Netflix, Sprint and about two dozen more.

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