Thursday’s Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Beyond Meat, US Steel, Check Point Software, Applied Materials, AutoZone, Costco and More

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The S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrials took a step back on Wednesday, breaking away from all-time highs. This downward move — albeit somewhat unexpected — came after Fed Chair Jerome Powell cut rates. At the same time, executives across the country are growing more pessimistic about the economy and what the future holds.

Despite volatility, the S&P 500 is still very close to its all-time highs. Investors are having to grapple with a much lower growth economy at the same time the bull market is well over 10 years old. Now investors should be considering what changes to make to portfolios and assets heading into late 2019 and as 2020 approaches.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day of the week to find new ideas for traders and long-term investors alike. Some of the daily analyst calls cover stocks to buy, while some calls cover stocks to sell or to avoid.

We have provided these calls in a quick-hit summary for easy reading, and additional comments and trading data have been added on some of the calls. 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 for Thursday, September 19, 2019.

Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) was downgraded to a Sector Weight rating by KeyBanc. Shares recently closed at $90.94, in a 52-week range of $57.18 to $93.12.

Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAT) was reiterated at Wells Fargo with an Outperform rating and a $58 price target. Shares last closed at $52.09, in a 52-week range of $28.79 to $52.10.

Altice USA Inc. (NYSE: ATUS) saw a few moves by analysts on Thursday morning. Benchmark reiterated a Buy rating with a $36 price target, Guggenheim reiterated a Buy rating with a $33 price target and TD Securities downgraded to a Hold rating with a $33 price target. Shares closed at $29.89, in a 52-week range of $14.49 to $29.97.

AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO) was reiterated by Wedbush with an Outperform rating and a $1,240 price target. The stock closed at $1,162.53, in a 52-week range of $705.01 to $1,186.60

Brown-Forman Corp. (NYSE: BFB) shares were downgraded by Evercore to Underperform from In-Line. The firm said that while it is a well-run company with iconic brands, it is a “valuation outlier.” Shares recently closed at $64.56, in a 52-week range of $63.84 to $64.61.

Beyond Meat Inc. (NASDAQ: BYND) was initiated at Barclays with an Overweight rating and a $185 price target. Barclays noted that this firm is “well-positioned” with the “potential” to capture a large share of the alternative meat market. Barclays went on to say that it estimates Beyond Meat could reach a 4.5% market share of the global alternative meat industry, which itself could represent 10% of the global meat industry, within a decade. Shares closed at $153.99, with a post-IPO range of $45.00 to $239.71.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) was downgraded by Merrill Lynch to an Underperform rating with a $116 price objective. Merrill Lynch noted in its report that Check Point has been consistently losing share over the past four to five years versus firewall peers, Cisco, Palo Alto and Fortinet, while the four-vendor market has been healthy, up roughly 10% annually between 2012 and 2018. Shares closed at $111.09, with a 52-week range of $98.57 to $132.76.

CME Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CME) was downgraded by Berenberg to a Hold rating with a $227 price target. Shares recently closed at $216.17, in a 52-week range of $161.05 to $224.91.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) was downgraded by Bernstein to an Underperform rating with a $230 price target. Shares of Costco last closed at $292.43, in a 52-week range of $189.51 to $307.34.

Lam Research Corp. (NASDAQ: LRCX) was reiterated with a Market Perform rating and a $235 price target at Wells Fargo. Shares closed at $237.64, in a 52-week range of $122.64 to $238.69.

PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: PYPL) shares were reiterated with an Outperform rating and a $122 price target at Raymond James. Shares closed at $105.60, in a 52-week range of $74.66 to $121.48.

SciPlay Corp. (NASDAQ: SCPL) was downgraded by Merrill Lynch to an Underperform rating with a $12 price objective. Ultimately, the firm sees more attractive mobile plays elsewhere in the sector amid overhangs at SciPlay. Shares last closed at $11.35, in a 52-week range of $9.12 to $18.75.

Twilio Inc. (NYSE: TWLO) shares were upgraded by Morgan Stanley to an Overweight rating with a $135 price target. Shares recently closed at $112.55, in a 52-week range of $62.43 to $151.00.

U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) saw a couple of downgrades early on Thursday. Macquarie downgraded it to an Underperform rating with an $8 price target, and Credit Suisse reiterated an Underperform rating with an $8 price target. Shares closed at $12.45, in a 52-week range of $10.16 to $30.91.

Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) was reiterated with an In-Line rating and a $139 price target by Imperial Capital. Shares closed at $136.80, in a 52-week range of $100.35 to $147.15.

Wednesday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades included Adobe, Apple, AT&T, Chewy, Corning, Dow, FedEx, NCR, Square, Tellurian, Zscaler, Zynga and many more.

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