Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Agilent, Alphabet, Altria, Amazon, Boeing, Caterpillar, Chipotle, E*Trade, Gap, Snap, Twitter and More

October 18, 2019 by Jon C. Ogg

Stocks were indicated to open marginally higher on Friday as earnings season is so far proving to be not as bad as many investors had modeled in for the third quarter and as Brexit hopes remain positive. The markets are back very close to all-time highs and investors are having to grapple with a slower economy at the same time that the bull market is now well over 10 years old. Now is a time to be considering what changes they should be making for their 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 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 sell-side research service.

These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations for Friday, October 18, 2019.

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy with an $82 target price at UBS.

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) was named as the Bull of the Day at Zacks, which said that you can bet that Alphabet is ready to deliver another spectacular earnings report this quarter. Shares of Alphabet most recently closed at $1,253.07, with a consensus price target of $1,427.52.

Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO) was raised to Neutral from Sell at Citigroup.

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) was reiterated as Outperform with a $2350 price target (versus a $1,787.48 prior close) at Wedbush Securities, with the firm noting that Amazon is positioned to deliver an upside on expectations for earnings in the second half.

Anthem Inc. (NYSE: ANTM) was started with a Neutral rating and assigned a $262 target price at Mizuho.

Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) was raised to Neutral from Underperform at Merrill Lynch.

ArcBest Corp. (NASDAQ: ARCB) was named as the Zacks Bear of the Day stock. The firm said that the trucking business has slowed to a crawl and estimates have cratered. The shares last closed at $30.38, with a consensus price target of $31.20.

Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) was maintained as Neutral and the price objective was lowered to $400 from $415 at Merrill Lynch.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight and the price target was lowered to $145 from $150 at Morgan Stanley.

Charles River Laboratories International Inc. (NYSE: CRL) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) was raised to Neutral from Underperform at Merrill Lynch.

Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $180 target price at Mizuho.

Equinix Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX) was reiterated as Buy and the target price was raised to $625 from $575 at Nomura/Instinet.

E*Trade Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: ETFC) was reiterated as Buy and the price target was raised to $47 from $41 at UBS. Wells Fargo maintained its Market Perform rating but raised its target to $40 from $37.

Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, and the firm cut its target price to $14 from $20.

Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $316 target price at Mizuho.

L Brands Inc. (NYSE: LB) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral and the target price was lowered to $14 from $22 at Credit Suisse.

Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, and the firm cut its target price to $12 from $19.

Newmark Group Inc. (NASDAQ: NMRK) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $15 price objective (versus a $9.28 prior close) at Merrill Lynch.

Nordic American Tankers Ltd. (NYSE: NAT) was raised to In-Line from Underperform at Evercore ISI.

Pinterest Inc. (NYSE: PINS) was started as Neutral with a $29 target price at MKM Partners.

Snap Inc. (NYSE: SNAP) was reiterated as Neutral with a $14.75 target price (versus a $13.78 close) at Wedbush. The firm anticipated third-quarter earnings upside to be driven by ongoing engagement growth and advertiser demand. MKM Partners started Snap as Neutral with a $16 target price, and Merrill Lynch raised its rating from Neutral to Buy with an $18 price objective.

StoneCo Ltd. (NASDAQ: STNE) was started as Buy with a $42 target price at UBS.

Tandem Diabetes Care Inc. (NASDAQ: TNDM) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $76 target price at Guggenheim.

Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) was started with a Neutral rating and assigned a $44 target price at MKM Partners.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) was started with a Buy rating and assigned a $180 target price at Mizuho.

In the waste management sector, KeyBanc Capital Markets downgraded Waste Management Inc. (NYSE: WM) to Sector Weight from Overweight and upgraded Waste Connections (NYSE: WCN) to Overweight from Sector Weight. Also, Merrill Lynch upgraded Republic Services Inc. (NYSE: RSG) from Neutral to Buy with a $95 target price.

Credit Suisse has issued earnings previews for big biotechs, and it now expects a solid quarter from continued execution. The firm sees upside opportunities despite the recent downturn in investor sentiment, with an increased focus on M&A being somewhat offset by increasing regulatory scrutiny of larger deals. Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: VRTX) and Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ: NBIX) are said to well-positioned ahead of the quarterly results. Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) could have a mixed quarter, while Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) could face a more challenging one.

Could mega-cap energy stocks deliver the best upside of all sectors in 2020 after not participating in the bull market?

Thursday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades included Abbott Laboratories, CSX, IBM, Netflix, Occidental Petroleum, Whiting Petroleum, Amgen, Gilead Sciences, Merck, Pfizer and many more.

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