Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: American Water, Arconic, Cree, Dell, Humana, Merck, Qualcomm, Square, Tesla, Zynga and More

May 2, 2019 by Jon C. Ogg

Stocks were looking for direction on Thursday, a day after Fed Chair Jerome Powell promised to be patient on interest rates, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have effectively hit all-time highs again in recent days. With gains of 17% for the S&P 500 year to date, investors need to be considering how they want their portfolios positioned for the rest of the year and beyond.

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

Additional commentary and trading data have been added on some of the daily analyst reports. The consensus analyst price targets and other valuation metrics are from the Refinitiv (Thomson Reuters) sell-side research service.

These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen on Thursday, May 2, 2019.

American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) was reiterated as Buy and the price target (fair value estimate) was raised to $121 from $102 (versus a $107.10 prior close) at Janney, with the firm noting that earnings beat its estimate but were a tad under consensus at the same time that it announced an August retirement for the firm’s chief financial officer.

Arconic Inc. (NYSE: ARNC) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the price target was raised to $26 from $21 (versus a $21.46 close) at Goldman Sachs. Shares were indicated up 22.5% at $22.00 after the call, in a 52-week range of $15.63 to $23.60 and with a consensus target price of $22.38.

Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) was downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer. The stock previously closed down 2% at $64.78, but its post-earnings reaction had shares indicated down over 10% at $58.00. The previous consensus target price was $61.88, and the 52-week trading range is $33.72 to $69.21.

Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL) was reiterated as Outperform at Raymond James, and the firm raised its target price up to $74 from $64. Dell closed up 1.7% at $68.58 ahead of the call, with a prior consensus target price of $66.80.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HLT) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank. Its shares were indicated down 1% at $91.62 after the call, but that was also after shares hit a 52-week the prior day and closed up 6.4% at $92.60.

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) closed down 3.6% at $246.16 on Wednesday’s post-earnings reaction. Citigroup maintained it as Buy but slashed its price target to $302 from $362.

Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $88 from $87 at UBS. Merck closed at $78.72 on Wednesday, with a consensus target price of $87.43.

Polaris Industries Inc. (NYSE: PII) was raised to Outperform from Neutral and the price target was raised to $117 from $101 (versus a $97.95 close) at Wedbush Securities. The firm sees multiple 2019 catalysts coming from tariff elimination or mitigation, new product innovation and improving trends in weather and markets.

Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) was maintained as Neutral at Citigroup, but the firm did raise its target to $85 from $55. Raymond James raised it to Strong Buy from Outperform and raised its target price to $115 from $85, while Merrill Lynch raised Qualcomm to Buy from Neutral and raised its price objective to $105 from $90. The consensus target price was $89.36, and shares were last seen trading at $86.37, in a 52-week range of $49.10 to $88.63.

Qualys Inc. (NASDAQ: QLYS) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $102 from $95 (versus a $90.51 close) at Wedbush. The firm has been consistently positive on Qualys and pointed out a solid March quarter earnings beat, better than expected bookings and a large operating margin leverage.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) was reiterated as Buy and the target price was raised to $158 from $148 at Buckingham Research. Also, Wedbush reiterated it as Outperform and raised the price target to $145 from $140. The stock closed up 6.7% at $129.03 ahead of these calls.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. (NYSE: SMG) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Merrill Lynch, but that is after its stock hit a 52-week high and closed up 6.3% at $90.42 the prior day. The consensus target price is $87.33.

Square Inc. (NYSE: SQ) was last seen trading down 4.7% at $70.17 after earnings contained some softer sales figures than some had expected. Wedbush maintained its Neutral rating with a $75 target price.

Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) was last seen trading up 5% after announcing that it would have a $2 billion or so capital raise after Elon Musk had denied it needed capital throughout 2018. A firm called Wolfe Research has downgraded Tesla to Peer Perform from Outperform, but no price target details were seen.

Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) was reiterated as Outperform and the price target was raised to $7.50 from $6.40 (versus a $5.51 close) at Wedbush. The firm noted that new acquisitions are not appearing to act as a drag on emerging profitability after first-quarter results handily beat guidance and expectations with strength across its core franchises. Also, Robert W. Baird raised it to Outperform with a new $8 price target. Zynga was indicated up 12% at $6.17, above the prior 52-week high of $5.78.

There some real-life reasons that the seasonal threat of “Sell in May and Go Away!” could be much louder in 2019.

The SunTrust analysts have raised price targets on three technology, media and telecom stocks that are posted very solid earnings results.

Credit Suisse’s equity strategy team has noted that, while the economic data has been relatively uninspiring, the market has continued to grind higher across regions, size and style, and growth and small caps have led within the U.S. international benchmarks but have lagged their domestic peers. The firm further noted that the results from earnings season suggest that those endless recession concerns are overdone.

Wednesday’s top analyst calls included Alkermes, Alphabet, Apple, ConocoPhillips, FireEye, Lyft, McDonald’s, Royal Bank of Scotland, Seagate Technology, Shopify and many more.