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

January 2, 2019 by Jon C. Ogg

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.

Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) was started as Overweight and assigned a $29 price target at Morgan Stanley. Goldman Sachs started coverage as Buy with a $25 target, and Oppenheimer started it as Outperform with a $27 target. Merrill Lynch started the stock as Buy and assigned a $20 price objective, while Piper Jaffray started Moderna as Overweight with a $24 target price. The prior closing price was $15.27, but the recent IPO price was $23 per share.

Medtronic PLC (NYSE: MDT) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy and the price target was lowered to $96 from $109 (versus a $90.96 close) at Citigroup.

Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) was trading down 2% in early trading indications on the first trading day of 2019 after SunTrust Robinson lowered its price target to $355 from $410 (versus a $267.66 close, after a 4.5% gain), with the firm noting that Netflix was likely to see subscriber additions in the key fourth quarter to come in under the consensus and also under the company’s prior guidance.

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) was reiterated as Buy with a $180 price target (versus a $149.54 close) at Argus, with the firm noting that its recent weakness offers a buying opportunity.

Shoe Carnival Inc. (NASDAQ: SCVL) was raised to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna. The stock closed down 5.6% at $33.51 on the last day of 2018, compared to a consensus target price of $44.00 prior to this call.

Sirius XM Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: SIRI) was raised to Overweight from Underweight and the price target was raised to $7 from $6 (versus a $5.71 close) at JPMorgan. The consensus target price is $6.93 and the 52-week range is $5.17 to $7.70.

Synthorx Inc. (NASDAQ: THOR) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $21 price target (versus a $17.38 close) at Jefferies.

Torchmark Corp. (NYSE: TMK) was raised to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan.

Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc. (NASDAQ: RARE) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James. The shares closed up 3.8% at $43.48 ahead of this call, but the shares were indicated down 3.1% at $42.10 afterward.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: VRTX) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James. The stock was up 2.6% at $165.71 on the last day of 2018, while the consensus target price is $198.64.

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) was raised to Sector Perform from Underperform with a $48 price target (versus a $46.08 close) at RBC Capital Markets.

Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ZBH) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the target price was raised to $127 from $122 (versus a $103.72 close) at Citigroup. Zimmer Biomet had a consensus target price of $132.73 ahead of the call.

In our annual preview, 24/7 Wall St. has shown how the Dow Jones industrial average could still rise back to new highs and perhaps approaching 28,000 in 2019. Frankly, the initial thought here is that analysts are going to have to dial down their expectations in 2019. A lot of things would have to not go wrong for that forecast to occur.

Also, see 15 of the top IPOs to watch for in 2019.

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