Investment Analysts’ upgrades for Tuesday, October 17th:

Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Advance Auto Parts’ quarterly earnings has been going up of late. With its relentless focus on store expansions, the company is enhancing its profit. Further, it is also working towards the improvement of comparable store sales and margins, for the long term, which will help the company to expand its profit margin. However, severe competition, increased selling, general & administrative expenses are few concerns faced by the company. Also in the last six months, Advance Auto Parts’ shares have also underperformed in the industry it belongs.”

AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $102.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “AbbVie’s key drug Humira has been performing well and should continue to do well. Moreover, Imbruvica has multibillion dollar potential and AbbVie is exploring the possibility of label expansion into solid tumors and autoimmune diseases. Meanwhile, AbbVie has promising pipeline with several pivotal data readouts and regulatory milestones due in the second half. Maviret, approved recently, has the potential to rejuvenate AbbVie’s struggling HCV franchise. AbbVie’s shares have outperformed the industry this year so far. However, though Humira is doing well, the company is concerned about the product’s long-term growth prospects, given the potential biosimilar competition. Viekira also faces intense pricing and competitive pressure in the HCV market. Estimates have gone up slightly ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. AbbVie has had a mixed record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters.”

Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $157.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Albemarle has outperformed the industry it belongs to over a year.  Albemarle remains focused on strengthening its lithium business. It is well placed to leverage strong expected growth in the battery-grade lithium market. The company should also gain from the synergies of Rockwood Holdings acquisition. Albemarle is also divesting non-core assets to boost growth opportunities and focus on its key businesses. Moreover, the company remains committed to deliver incremental returns to shareholders.”

Autoliv (NYSE:ALV) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $142.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Autoliv's electronics segment is gaining in strength following the launch of the Zenuity joint venture in April. Also, innovative product launches, acquisitions and JVs are likely to boost its sales. Moreover, Autoliv has been witnessing a strong order intake. The company has hired a number of engineers to cater to the demand, of which a majority have been employed in the Passive Safety segment. However, Autoliv has lowered its outlook for 2017.  Moreover, stiff competition in passive safety products is a concern before it. Year to date, Autoliv has underperformed the industry it belongs to.”

AptarGroup (NYSE:ATR) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $100.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “For third-quarter 2017, AptarGroup expects earnings to be in the range of 77–97 cents. The mid point of the guidance reflects 4.8% improvement year over year. Its focus on execution of growth strategy will help customers to grow their businesses with innovative dispensing solutions. The company has implemented a commercial excellence program to boost sales and marketing capability in its Beauty + Home segment. The Pharma segment continues to benefit from strong demand across its portfolio of devices, mainly for devices used for allergy treatment, decongestions and ophthalmics, along with components sold to the injectables markets. AptarGroup's Mega Airless acquisition was a key element of its strategy to expand portfolio and accelerate growth in the airless systems markets. The company has outperformed the industry over the past year.”

BorgWarner (NYSE:BWA) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $58.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “BorgWarner is poised to benefit from its expansion in asia that will positively impact its sales figure. Also, a strong balance sheet and ample cash flow helps the company to return capital to its shareholders and undertake new acquisitions. Moreover, it has provided a positive guidance for the fiscal 2017. Additionally, BorgWarner’s shares have also outperformed in the industry it belongs to, in the last one month.”

Clovis Oncology (NASDAQ:CLVS) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $95.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Clovis’ Rubraca registered impressive sales in the second quarter. The FDA’s accelerated approval to ovarian cancer treatment, Rubraca in Dec 2016 was a huge boost for  the company. Rubraca has bright prospects, given the tremendous demand for PARP inhibitors. Clovis is focused on achieving continued approval for the drug. Rubraca is also under review in the EU for a comparable indication. Several studies on Rubraca, targeting different types of ovarian cancer patients, are currently underway. Promising progression-free survival and safety results from the ARIEL3 maintenance study in Jun 2017 are positives. However, with just one approved product in the portfolio, Clovis is heavily dependent on Rubraca for growth, which concerns us. Clovis’ shares have outperformed the industry so far this year. Loss Estimates have narrowed ahead of the Q3 earnings results. The company has a mixed record of earnings surprises in recent quarters.”

Dover Corporation (NYSE:DOV) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $106.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Dover guides its adjusted EPS in the range of $4.23–$4.33 for 2017, the mid-point of which reflects a 38% increase year over year. The company will benefit from significant drilling activity, strong Printing & Identification platform, strength of retail refrigeration business, and robust hygienic and pharma markets. Further, Dover's announcement of the separation of its upstream energy businesses will help focus on core platforms of market-leading businesses. Focus on acquisition strategy and operating model will drive growth. Moreover, the stock has outperformed its industry over the past year.”

Encana Corporation (NYSE:ECA) (TSE:ECA) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $13.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “The Canadian energy behemoth – which smashed profit estimates in the Jun quarter on the back of solid production and margins – holds one of the largest natural gas resource portfolios in North America. Additionally, the company's cost cut initiatives and divestiture of high-cost low-profit gas assets will increase its financial flexibility and fund the transition to a more diversified oil and gas firm. Finally, last year's equity offering has helped it lower debt levels, apart from supporting more number of rigs in the Permian basin, where Encana is a top tier operator. Therefore, notwithstanding the stock's impressive run in the past 6 months, we believe that ECA offers more upside for investors going ahead. “

Energizer Holdings (NYSE:ENR) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating. They currently have $55.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Energizer is one of the leading names in the global batteries and lighting products business. The company’s battery business generates over 90% of the revenues. Acquisition of HandStands diversified its portfolio by including brands like Refresh Your Car!, California Scents and Eagle One. Acquisition and strong product portfolio will continue to drive top line. Energizer also has a strong shareholder returns plan in place, which is an added positive. On a year-to-date basis, the stock has outperformed the industry it belongs to. Notably, the company has positive record of earnings surprises in recent quarters.”

Fossil Group (NASDAQ:FOSL) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Fossil have declined and underperformed the industry in the last six months. This downside can be attributed to a decline in the company's traditional watches, softness in leather and jewelry business along with a tough retail landscape. Moreover, it is facing economic challenges in many of its key international markets. Consequently, the company’s sales have lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate in nine of the trailing 11 quarters. Though the Watches category is likely to remain sluggish due to increased competition and volatility in sales pattern, Fossil’s expansion in connected wearables and smartwatches are expected to gain momentum. Meanwhile, the company focuses on a restructuring program named New World Fossil. This program aims at improving the financial performance of its namesake brand alongside building an improved operating platform to drive long-term shareholder value.”

Group 1 Automotive (NYSE:GPI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Group 1 Automotive is poised to benefit from its frequent acquisitions and divestments of dealerships and franchises in order to expand its business. Moreover, its financial position is improving with higher cash balance, which the company uses to pursue its capital deployment strategies. These capital deployments will boost shareholders’ confidence in Group 1 Automotive. However, a weak energy market and a decline in new vehicle unit sales are few headwinds for the company. Also, in the last six months, its shares have underperformed against the industry it belongs to.”

HollyFrontier Corporation (NYSE:HFC) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $40.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “HollyFrontier is one of the largest independent oil refiners in the U.S. with the capability to process a wide mix of crude. While its access to some of the fastest growing domestic markets bode well for the downstream operator, the Petro-Canada Lubricants acquisition has helped HollyFrontier expand into a high-margin, less competitive business. Additionally, through its 36% interest in Holly Energy Partners, the company maintains fee-based assets with limited commodity price exposure. A strong financial position and attractive yields are other positives in the HFC story. Consequently, we think HollyFrontier offers substantial upside potential from the current price levels and view it as an attractive investment. “

Infinity Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INFI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Infinity’s clinical trial collaboration with Bristol-Myers for the evaluation of the IPI-549/Opdivo combination bodes well for the company. Meanwhile, Infinity has undertaken a significant organizational restructuring, which includes amending its license agreement with Takeda Oncology for IPI-549. However, Infinity has no approved product in its portfolio at the moment, with only IPI-549 in the pipeline. The company is thus totally dependent on the candidate for growth. With so much depending on the successful development and approval of one candidate, development or regulatory setbacks related to IPI-549, which is still a long way from entering the market, will hamper the company’s growth prospects and pull the stock down significantly. Shares of the company have outperformed the Zacks classified industry year to date. Estimates have remained stable ahead of the Q3 earnings results.”

iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ:IRBT) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $85.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Over the last twelve months, iRobot’s shares outperformed the industry. The company reported better-than-expected second-quarter 2017 results. Quarterly earnings and revenues surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimates by 208% and 4%, respectively. The upside was stemmed by robust home robotics business in all end markets across the U.S., China, and the EMEA region. The company believes that sturdy demand, meaningful innovation investments and the planned Robiolas buyout would boost its results in the quarters ahead. Notably, the company raised its earnings and revenue guidance for full-year 2017.”

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. Holding (NYSE:JCP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “The impact of challenging retail landscape, stiff competition from online retailers and waning store traffic is clearly visible on J. C. Penney’s shares performance that have underperformed the industry in a year. The company has been grappling with dismal comparable sales over the past few quarters. Further, the company’s higher debt level also raises a concern. Nevertheless, in an effort to lure customers and ramp up sales, management has introduced a new loyalty program. These along with remodeling, renovation and refurbishment of stores with special attention on enhancing the reach of national and especially private-label brands looks promising. J. C. Penney is also gradually increasing the count of Sephora stores which is going great business. Of late, estimates have been stable ahead of the company’s third quarter earnings release.”

The Middleby Corporation (NASDAQ:MIDD) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Middleby reported better-than-expected earnings in second-quarter 2017. The company claimed that its ongoing initiatives to launch new products and improve production capability are likely to boost revenues in the quarters ahead. Moreover, newly acquired businesses are also expected to bolster the top line moving forward. Further, ongoing integration activities and greater cost discipline are likely to strengthen near-term profitability. Over the last 60 days, Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock has moved north for both 2017 and 2018. However, Middleby’s shares have underperformed the industry in the last month. The company perceives that ongoing restructuring moves, lower European sales or major chain restaurant customers might depress results moving ahead. Even so, a stronger U.S. dollar might continue to weigh over aggregate revenues in the upcoming quarters.”

Merck & (NYSE:MRK) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Merck has made significant progress with its pipeline and is working on bringing new products to the market. New products like Keytruda and Zepatier should continue to contribute meaningfully to sales. Keytruda is gaining strong momentum from new indication of first-line lung cancer. The Keytruda development program also significantly advanced in the first half with several key regulatory approvals. Meanwhile, Merck will continue to focus on cost-cutting initiatives to drive the bottom line. However, generic competition for several drugs and pricing pressure will continue to be overhangs on the top line. Rising competition in the immuno-oncology market is also a significant concern. Merck’s shares underperformed the industry this year so far. Estimates have declined slightly ahead of the company’s Q3 earnings release. Merck has a positive record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters.”

Petroleo Brasileiro S.A.- Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Petrobras is poised to benefit from Brazil’s economic growth and huge pre-salt oil reserves. We appreciate the company’s strong pipeline of development projects and impressive exploration successes. Petrobras’ focus on cost improvement measures and divestment of non-core assets will help it revive its financial health. However, though the company is making successful efforts to trim its massive debt loads, it still has a leverage of 53% which is a cause of concern. Petrobras ADRs continue to struggle, reflecting lingering issues pertaining to the money-laundering scandal that has scarred its credit metrics. Over the year the stock has underperformed the broader industry. Therefore, we take cautious stance on the prospects of the stock.”

Pinnacle Foods (NYSE:PF) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $64.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of Pinnacle Foods have outperformed the industry in the past year, primarily owing to a solid brand portfolio and robust strategic initiatives. Also, the company has been innovating products to offer variety and maintain market share. Moreover, it has been carrying out various acquisitions to grow its distribution network and customer base. Notable acquisitions include Boulder Brands and Duncan Hines. Additionally, Pinnacle Foods has an operational excellence program designed to generate annual productivity savings across the supply chain, which remains encouraging. However, the company’s Specialty segment has been witnessing sluggishness for quite some time and is expected to remain challenging in 2017. Also, its Pickle business is depicting weakness due to continued competitive environment in the form of pricing and innovation. Estimates have been stable ahead of the company’s third-quarter earnings release.”

QUALCOMM (NASDAQ:QCOM) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $59.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Qualcomm achieved a 5G data connection with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset on 28GHz mmWave spectrum. Qualcomm is teaming up with Verizon and Novatel Wireless for 5G NR mmWave technology trial. This marks Qualcomm’s leadership in 5G, chipset market and mobile connectivity. Qualcomm is extending cash tender offer for its pending NXP Semiconductor deal. Qualcomm has launched Mesh Networking Platform and is planning to buy Scyfer B.V. to boost its Artificial Intelligence Research. Qualcomm’s subsidiary unveiled a new chipset — the C-V2X, compatible with 4G and 5G cellular standards. However, the company continues to receive charges for unfair business practices and licensing royalty payments. Aggressive competition in the mobile phone chipset market has also been hurting Qualcomm’s profits. Qualcomm sued Apple in China, seeking iPhone sales’ ban. Over the past three months, the stock underperformed its industry.”

Rowan Companies PLC (NYSE:RDC) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $16.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Rowan Cos offers investors stable earnings and cash flow visibility, given its technologically advanced and versatile offshore drilling fleet, strong backlog and considerable pricing power. Moreover, Rowan’s joint venture with Aramco is expected to drive higher utilizations for the drop-down rigs. Rowan’s cost-control initiatives are also noteworthy. Rowan outperformed the industry in the last three months and it has a strong earnings surprise history. Rowan’s earnings beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the four quarters with an average positive earnings surprise of 777.27%.”

Rockwell Automation (NYSE:ROK) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $209.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Backed by an improving macro environment, Rockwell Automation expects adjusted earnings per share to lie between $6.60 and $6.80 and projects sales to be around $6.3 billion in fiscal 2017. The company will benefit from the consistent growth in the consumer and transportation verticals and expects heavy industries to grow in 2017 despite the prevailing softness in oil and gas and mining. Further, increased investment, acquisitions, product launches and share repurchases will support growth. Its shares have outperformed the industry in the past year.”

Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Sonic Automotive is expanding its network of stores to boost sales. Also, the company actively pursues capital deployment strategies to boost shareholder value. The company plans to offset dilution caused by equity compensation awards through regular share repurchase programs. It is expected that over the long term, the company has the ability to enhance service capacity and raise revenues. However, the company has lowered down its 2017 estimates for new vehicle seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, which is in the range of 16.5 million and 17 million vehicles, down from the previous expectation of 17 million to 17.5 million. This will have an adverse impact on the results of the company. Moreover, weakness in the Houston market, where Sonic Automotive has considerable exposure, is also likely to adversely impact its sales and profit.”

Companhia de saneamento Basico Do Estado De Sao Paulo – Sabesp (NYSE:SBS) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “In the last six months, SABESP's American Depository Receipts (ADR) underperformed the industry. We believe that the company is exposed to risks arising from governmental interference and dependence on electricity as a source of energy. Moreover, the company's higher debt levels, if unchecked, will inflate its financial obligations, posing serious threats to its profitability. However, we believe the company's long-term prospects are bright, as growth in the Brazilian population is creating higher demand for water and sewage services. By 2022, it aims to add nearly one million new water connections and 1.3 million new sewage connections. Also, it has planned investments worth R$13.9 billion for 2017-2021. Over the 60 days, earnings estimates on the stock remained stable for 2017 and 2018.”

Sucampo Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SCMP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $11.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Sucampo is focused on expanding Amitiza’s label and penetrating new markets. Also, Sucampo’s collaborations with firms like Takeda and Mylan for Amitiza’s commercialization is a big positive. Also, through the agreement with Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals, Sucampo acquired an exclusive option to develop and commercialize its combination, CPP-1X/sulindac, in North America. Moreover, the Vtesse acquisition added a pivotal program in Niemann-Pick Disease type C1 to its pipeline. However, dependence of Sucampo on Amitiza for growth is concerning with few companies trying to market and sell generic version of Amitiza. A decline in Amitiza's sales will adversely impact the top line. Moreover, it had its share of pipeline setbacks. Shares of the company have underperformed the industry. Estimates have remained stable ahead of the Q3 earnings results. The company has a mixed record of earnings surprises in the recent quarters.”

Molson Coors Brewing (NYSE:TAP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Molson Coors have declined and underperformed the industry in the past six months. Though the acquisition of the Miller global brands has boosted sales in Europe and international regions, Molson Coors has been posting negative beer volumes in the U.S. and Canada for quite some time now. Aging population and stiff competition have been significant contributors to the declining state of the beer industry. Molson Coors is also exposed to significant currency headwinds, with a major portion of its revenues coming from outside the U.S. Nevertheless, Molson Coors has undertaken several restructuring initiatives to reduce overhead costs and boost profitability. The company is expanding its global footprint through acquisitions and agreements. It is also focusing on above-premium brands to help grow its market share. However, estimates have recently declined ahead of the company’s third-quarter 2017 earnings release.”

TC PipeLines, (NYSE:TCP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $60.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “TC PipeLines owns stakes in natural gas transportation assets, which generate stable, recurring and low-risk earnings. Moreover, we expect the partnership’s recent acquisition of some major U.S. gas systems to be immediately accretive to cash flows. The partnership has also established a track of providing stable and growing cash distribution to unitholders, an indication of its financial strength. Finally, TC PipeLines continues to leverage its relationship with parent TransCanada to make ‘drop-down’ transactions. Being incrementally more positive on the partnership, we see the stock performing above the broader market.”

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