Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Aflac, Akamai, BioMarin, Caesars Entertainment, CBS, Crocs, GW Pharma, Medtronic, Netflix, Sirius XM and More

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Stocks entered the new year on a sour note, with equity futures down about 1.5% after weaker Chinese economic data. While investors used to buy every sell-off, the volatility in late 2018 took away some of the instant upside that investors had seen for several years previously. Now investors have to stomach more volatility and uncertainty. This makes it difficult to position assets for the long haul when so many stop-loss levels are triggered.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day to find new ideas for investors and traders alike. Some of these analyst reports cover stocks to buy, while others cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

Additional commentary has been added on most of the daily analyst reports, along with trading history. The consensus analyst price targets and other valuation metrics are from the Thomson Reuters sell-side research service.

These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Aflac Inc. (NYSE: AFL) was downgraded to Neutral from Overweight with a $51 price target (versus a $45.56 prior close) at JPMorgan.

Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform with a $73 target price (versus a $61.08 close) at Cowen.

Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight and the target price was raised to $77 from $66 (versus a $65.82 close) at Morgan Stanley.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: BMRN) was downgraded to Market Perform from Market Outperform at Raymond James, and its shares were indicated down 2.3% at $83.20 after the call.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR) was raised to Neutral from Sell, but the price target reportedly has been lowered to $7 from $9 (versus a $6.79 close) at UBS.

CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight with a $58 price target (versus $43.35 close) at Stephens.

Crocs Inc. (NASDAQ: CROX) was raised to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna. Shares closed down 2.5% at $25.98 ahead of this call and were indicated up only 0.4% afterward. The consensus target price was $28.80 on last look.

Estee Lauder Companies Inc. (NYSE: EL) was raised to Buy from Overweight and the price target was raised to $155 from $145 (versus a $130.10 close) at Citigroup.

First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC) was maintained as Overweight but the price target was lowered by 20%, down to $20 from $25 (versus a $16.91 close), at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Flex Ltd. (NASDAQ: FLEX) was downgraded to Neutral from Overweight and the price target was lowered to $12 from $14 (versus a $7.61 close) at JPMorgan. The 52-week high is $19.71, and the prior consensus target price was $12.82.

GW Pharmaceuticals PLC (NASDAQ: GWPH) was started as Overweight and assigned a $134 price target (versus a $97.39 close) at JPMorgan.

Hologic Inc. (NASDAQ: HOLX) traded lower after Morgan Stanley downgraded the medical device maker to Underweight from Equal Weight and lowered its target price to $39 from $44. The firm noted that Hologic’s recovery path for the medical aesthetics business is no longer clear and headwinds continue in the core surgical segment, and that there is evidence of saturation in the body sculpting devices market and it sees a rising potential threat from increasing competition for its endometrial ablation device.

Insmed Inc. (NASDAQ: INSM) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $20 price target (versus a $13.12 close) at Canaccord Genuity.