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Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: Agilent, American Power, Apache, Boeing, Ciena, Cisco, FireEye, Palo Alto, Southwest, Yum Brands and More

Lee Jackson

The futures traded higher Wednesday morning and bounced way off the overnight lows, as Wall Street continues to watch with concern the growing tension in the Middle East after Iranian missile strikes hit Iraq on Tuesday. With the potential for escalation always possible, caution is probably a solid move for investors now.

For those who did not make all their portfolio shifts and changes during a very strong market in 2019, it is time to reconsider how to be positioned for 2020. Despite the market’s concerns about headlines, the stock market is still barely under all-time highs, as trade tensions are abating and global growth may see a rekindled strength. This is also an election year in which much is at stake, and strategists by and large are calling for single-digit percentage gains in 2020.

24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of analyst research reports each day of the week. Our goal is 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 analyst calls in a quick-hit summary for easy reading, and additional comments and trading data have been added on many of the calls. The consensus analyst price targets and other valuation metrics are from the Refinitiv sell-side research service.

Our 2020 Bull/Bear Outlook sees the Dow rising by about 7.4% to 30,650 this year, but there are outliers that could help the Dow rise by over 10%, after a very strong 2019. These are the top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations from Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

AAR Corp. (NYSE: AIR) was raised to Buy from Hold at SunTrust, which also lifted the price target to $56. That compares with the Wall Street consensus target of $53. The stock closed Tuesday at $45.54, and shares were up almost 3% in the premarket.

AXA Equitable Holdings Inc. (NYSE: EQH) was added to the Conviction Buy list at Goldman Sachs. The stock has traded between $17.47 and $25.17 over the past year, and the consensus price target is $28. The shares closed Tuesday at $24.96.

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) was started with an Overweight rating and a $100 target at Wells Fargo. The consensus price target is $87.40. The last trade on Tuesday hit the tape at $85.08.

Allegheny Technologies Inc. (NYSE: ATI) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays, which has a $22 price objective. The consensus price target is $26.22. The closing price on Tuesday was $20.32.

Allete Inc. (NYSE: ALE) was raised to Buy rating Neutral at Guggenheim. The 52-week trading range for the shares has been $72.50 to $88.60, and the consensus price objective is $84.80. The stock closed Tuesday at $79.53.

American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP) was downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Guggenheim. The 52-week trading range for the utility giant is $72.95 to $96.22. With a close Tuesday of $93.69, this could be a valuation call, as the utility sector has had a huge run over the past year.

Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) was raised to Buy from Hold with a $39 price objective at Stifel. The consensus target for the exploration and production giant is $27.25. The shares closed Tuesday at $32.51, up a stunning 27% after the company reported a large South American oil discovery.

Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen, which also lowered the price target on the troubled aerospace giant to $371. The consensus target is $360.05, and the stock closed Thursday at $337.28. Shares were down over 1% in premarket action after a 737-800 crash in Iran yesterday killed all on-board.

Brighthouse Financial Inc. (NYSE: BHF) was upgraded to Neutral from Sell and the price target raised to $41 at Goldman Sachs. The lower consensus target is $38.51. The stock was last seen on Tuesday at $37.90.