Stock Analysts’ downgrades for Wednesday, January 3rd:

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Post a promising third-quarter performance by Abbott, we are optimistic about the strong and consistent EPD and Medical Devices performance. However, the ongoing sluggish trend in the Nutrition business is a downside. However, the company continues to benefit from the recently completed St. Jude Medical buyout. Meanwhile, Alere acquisition close is an upside too. Through 2017, Abbott is effectively focusing on core therapeutic areas. Recently, its FreeStyle Libre Flash received the FDA approval. Also, it has received approval for MR-conditional labeling for Ellipse ICD. Also, emerging market performance remains promising on several new strategic developments. Hence, in the past three months, Abbott is trading above the broader industry. On the flip side, sluggish pediatric nutrition business in some global markets continues to dent growth. Also the economic problems in Venezuela are expected to remain unresolved.”

Arbutus Biopharma (NASDAQ:ABUS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “Arbutus Biopharma Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company which is focused on discovering, developing and commercializing a portfolio of drug candidates for chronic hepatitis B infection. The Company’s products include TKM-HBV, Cyclophilin Inhibitor-OCB-030, TLR9 Agonist (CYT-003), Capsid Assembly Inhibitors, Surface Antigen Secretion Inhibitors, STING Agonists, cccDNA Formation Inhibitors, cccDNA Epigenetic Modifiers, TKM-PLK1, GI-NET and ACC, HCC, TKM-Ebola, TKM-Ebola-Guinea, TKM-Marburg, TKM-HTG and TKM-ALDH which are in different clinical trial stage. Arbutus Biopharma Corp, formerly known as Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation, is headquartered in Vancouver, BC. “

Axcelis Technologies (NASDAQ:ACLS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong-buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Axcelis Technologies is a leading producer of ion implantation equipment used in the fabrication of semiconductors. The company also produces dry strip, photostabilization and rapid thermal processing equipment, which is used in semiconductor manufacturing primarily before and after the ion implantation process. In addition, the company provides extensive aftermarket service and support, including spare parts, equipment upgrades, maintenance services and customer training. “

Ares Commercial Real Estate (NYSE:ACRE) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation is a specialty finance company focused on originating, investing in and managing middle-market commercial real estate loans and other commercial real estate investments. The Company’s financing solutions are comprised of its target investments, which include the following: Transitional senior mortgage loans, Stretch senior mortgage loans, Subordinate debt mortgage loans and Other CRE debt and preferred equity investments. Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation is based in Chicago, Illinois. “

Aclaris Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACRS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical company. The Company is focused on identifying, developing and commercializing drugs to met needs in dermatology. Its drug candidate consists of A-101, a high-concentration hydrogen peroxide topical solution which is being developed as a prescription treatment for seborrheic keratosis a common non-malignant skin tumor and A-102, a proprietary topical gel dosage form of hydrogen peroxide for the treatment of SK and common warts which are in different clinical trial. Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc. is headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “

Aehr Test Systems (NASDAQ:AEHR) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Aehr Test Systems develops, manufactures and sells systems which are designed to reduce the cost of testing DRAMs and other memory devices, perform reliability screening or burn-in of complex logic and memory devices, and enable IC manufacturers to perform test and burn-in of bare die. Leveraging its expertise as a long-time leading provider of burn-in equipment, with over 2,000 systems installed worldwide, the Company has developed and introduced two innovative product families, the MTX system and the DiePak-Registered Trademark- carrier. “

First Majestic Silver (NYSE:AG) (TSE:FR) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong-buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “First Majestic Silver Corp. is engaged in the production, development, exploration, and acquisition of silver mines in Mexico. First Majestic Silver Corp. is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. “

AIT Therapeutics (OTCMKTS:AITB) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “AIT Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical-stage anti-microbial therapeutic company using nitric oxide to treat respiratory and other diseases. The Company is currently applying its therapeutic expertise to treat lower respiratory tract infections, which are not effectively addressed with current standards of care. It is advancing its revolutionary respiratory targeted system in clinical trials for the treatment of bronchiolitis and nontuberculous mycobacteria. AIT Therapeutics, Inc. is based in Ness Ziona, Israel. “

Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE:AJRD) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong-buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. focuses on developing military, civil and commercial systems and components for the aerospace and defense industry markets. Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., formerly known as GenCorp, Inc., is headquartered in Sacramento, California. “

Alamo Group (NYSE:ALG) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Alamo Group is a leader in the design, manufacture, distribution and service of high quality equipment for infrastructure maintenance, agriculture and other applications. Their products include truck and tractor mounted mowing and other vegetation maintenance equipment, street sweepers, snow removal equipment, excavators, vacuum trucks, other industrial equipment, agricultural implements and related after-market parts and services. “

Allot Communications (NASDAQ:ALLT) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “Allot Communications Ltd. is a leading provider of intelligent IP service optimization solutions. Designed for carriers, service providers and enterprises, Allot solutions apply deep packet inspection technology to transform broadband pipes into smart networks. This creates the visibility and control vital to manage applications, services and subscribers, guarantee quality of service, contain operating costs and maximize revenue. Allot believes in listening to customers and provides them access to its global network of visionaries, innovators and support engineers. “

AMTEK (NYSE:AME) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “AMETEK is one of the leading manufacturers of electronic appliances and electromechanical devices. It continues to reap the benefits from the execution of its four core growth strategies of operational excellence, global market expansion, investments in product development and strategic acquisitions. This, in combination with a strong portfolio of differentiated businesses, is expected to help the company post better results, going forward. However, weakness in its balance sheet, integration issues and an overly high goodwill associated with an aggressive acquisition strategy are concerns. Foreign exchange headwinds remain. Notably, in past 12 months, the stock has outperformed the industry.”

Allied Motion Technologies (NASDAQ:AMOT) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong-buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Hathaway Corporation is engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing and selling advanced systems and instrumentation to the worldwide power and process industries, as well as motion control products to a broad spectrum of customers throughout the world. The company’s power instrumentation products helps ensure that electric utilities provide high quality service to consumers of electricity. The company’s equipment assists the electric power system operators in operating and maintaining proper system performance. “

Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Alibaba's solid growth in the company’s core e-commerce business, strong growth in metrics and international strength help it to generate significant revenues. Other drivers include strong mobile  strength. Estimates have been going up ahead of the company's fiscal second quarter earnings release. The company has positive record of earnings surprises in recent quarters. Also, on a 12-month basis, the stock has outperformed the industry it belongs to. Alibaba’s strong core e-commerce business, its continued efforts to develop new products, international growth opportunities, strong financial position and growing cloud computing services are positives. However, macro headwinds, continued investments and increasing competition from Tencent Holdings and Baidu remain the overhangs.”

Bruker (NASDAQ:BRKR) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a strong-buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Over the past three months, Bruker has been observed to trade above the broader industry.  Of late, the company’s Scientific Instruments segment has been performing well where growth was driven by strong results within NANO and CALID groups. The company raising 2017 guidance, is indicative of brighter prospects. Moving on, the company’s strategic acquisition activity has been encouraging. In this context, the company recently announced the completion of acquisition of Germany-based MERLIN whose products can complement Bruker’s MALDI Biotyper platform. On the flip side, currency fluctuations, competitive landscape and macroeconomic headwinds continue to pose challenges for the company.”

Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Capital One’s shares have outperformed the industry in the last six months. The company surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings only in two of the trailing four quarters. A solid liquidity position and strength in the credit card and online banking businesses position it well for long term growth. The acquisition of Cabela's credit card portfolio further supports the company's prospects. However, mounting operating expenses are likely to hurt bottom-line growth. Also, deteriorating asset quality remains a major concern for the company in the near term.”

Cognizant Technology Solutions (NASDAQ:CTSH) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Cognizant shares have outperformed the industry in the past one year. Growth can be attributed to the company's significant exposure to the fast-growing verticals like Financial Services and Healthcare. Higher demand from payer and top-tier consulting clients in the healthcare segment will help to sustain the growth momentum.  The company’s ability to harness the ongoing digital transition is a tailwind. The company is also significantly benefiting from accretive acquisitions. The extensive share repurchase program is another positive. Cognizant has also gained deep industry expertise and knowledge of the domains through partnerships with top firms like Microsoft and SAP.  However, the company faces significant geographic, domain and customer concentration risks which can negatively impact its business. Besides, stiff competition in the IT services market remains a concern.”

Deckers Outdoor (NYSE:DECK) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Deckers impressive second-quarter fiscal 2018 results surprised investors, who had braced themselves for a dismal show. The company posted far better results than anticipated and also stated that it is no longer pursuing its plan of sale. We believe that management’s focus on enhancing omni-channel capabilities, innovative line of products and expanding brand assortments bode well for the stock, which has outpaced the industry in the past six months. The company’s long-term target of $2 billion sales with operating margin of 13% by fiscal 2020 also seems achievable. Following the results, management raised its fiscal 2018 view and now envisions net sales to be up 1-2% from last year with bottom line expected to improve 8.6-12.6% year over year. However, third-quarter net sales are expected to decline due to the timing of orders with earnings per share also projected to come down on account of higher operating expenses.”

Diageo (NYSE:DEO) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Diageo have outperformed the industry in the past one year, driven by its strong fundamentals, continuous innovation and focus on expansion. Also, the company’s strategic endeavors including growth via acquisitions remain noteworthy. In fact, the buyout of the U.S. fastest-growing premium tequila brand, Casamigos, is expected to boost its market share in the category and is likely to capitalize on the company’s presence in the high-growth international markets.Notably, alcohol stocks are doing well backed by the rising demand for flavored whisky, premium tequilas and spirits. However, currency fluctuations pose a serious concern for the company. Macroeconomic factors such as interest rate hikes and increase in fuel and energy costs may also impact the company’s profitability.”

Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “In the last six months, Discover Financial’s shares have outperformed the industry. The company is well poised for long-term growth on the back of consistent rise in revenues. Its strong Direct Banking business has significantly supported the top line. The company’s card sales have been soaring over past many years. Its efficient capital management also impresses. However, it has been incurring considerable expenses in order to compete with other credit card issuers, attract and retain customers, and increase card usage. The rising expenses have been severely weighing on the company’s margins. Its Payments Service segment has been a drag over the past few years despite management’s several corrective efforts. The company will release fourth quarter results after market closes on Jan 24, 2017.”

Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Fastenal gained 23.8% in the last six months, compared with 21.1% growth of its industry. Also, earnings estimates for 2018 have moved upward, reflecting analysts’ optimism. Increased onsite locations and installation of vending machines along with the Mansco acquisition are expected to boost sales. After a soft 2013, vending trends improved thereafter as management’s efforts to enhance the quality of signings/installs paid off. As of Sep 30, 2017, Fastenal operated 69,058 vending machines, up 14.3% year over year. Cost control initiatives are also impressive. However, unfavorable product mix, pricing and competitive pressures are hurting gross margins. Gross margin of 49.4% in the first nine months of 2017 dropped 10 bps from the prior-year quarter.”

Federated Investors (NYSE:FII) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Federated have outperformed the industry over the last six months. Also, the company boasts an impressive earnings surprise history. It surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings in all the trailing four quarters. It’s top-line continues to get support from the rise in interest rates and increasing assets under management. Also, Federated’s inorganic growth strategies to expand fund offerings encourage us. However, mounting expenses remain a major concern. Also, stretched valuation indicates limited upside potential in the stock.”

Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Garmin is currently riding on product line expansion The company's third-quarter 2017 results were driven by solid performance in marine, outdoor and aviation segments. Garmin's strategy involves a constantly evolving product line supported by a platform approach that increases engagement with its products and focuses on building a community of users. A solid portfolio of new products across segments, secular drivers in the aviation market, market share gains in the marine market and contributions from acquisitions are other positives. However, weak personal navigation device (PND) market and additional revenue deferrals remain headwinds. In the past 12 months, the stock has outperformed the industry it belongs to.”

Iconix Brand Group (NASDAQ:ICON) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “Iconix has significantly lagged the industry in a year, mainly due to persistent softness in women's and men's segments. In third-quarter 2017, sales at the women’s and men’s categories declined 13% and 5% respectively, causing Iconix’s overall top-line to tumble 12%. Notably, the Starter brand has been majorly hurting Iconix’s business. Consequently, the licensing agreement for this brand will not be renewed. Also, other licensing agreements with Wal-Mart and Target will not be renewed post expiration. Nonetheless, the company is striving to place these brands with new or existing licensees. Also, it has been undertaking measures to enhance international business, which fared well in the quarter under review. Moreover, earnings grew year over year and is expected to be marginally above the previous range in 2017. On the contrary, revenues are projected to be at the lower end of the previous range.”

Kroger (NYSE:KR) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Kroger has been trying all means to overcome stiff competition, which has intensified with the entrance of Amazon, volatility in food prices, promotional environment and dwindling store traffic. The company is expanding store base, introducing new items, digital coupons, and order online, pick up in store initiative. The company’s “Restock Kroger” program is gaining traction. The company's operational strategies present enormous opportunities to augment identical supermarket sales and enhance return on invested capital. These endeavors facilitated Kroger to post better-than-expected third-quarter fiscal 2017 results, wherein both the top and bottom lines grew year over year. This provided a much needed boost to the stock that outpaced the industry in three months. However, higher investments in new services and compelling pricing strategy may hurt margins. Further, a high debt load may impact credit worthiness.”

Microchip Technology (NASDAQ:MCHP) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Microchip develops and manufacturers microcontrollers, memory and analog and interface products for embedded control systems. Microchip is benefiting from robust demand for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit microcontrollers. We believe that Microchip's expanding product portfolio driven by new launches will continue to expand customer base. Moreover, acquisitions like that of Atmel are likely to expand its geographical presence, augment customer base, extend product portfolio and supplement operational excellence. However, increasing lead time due to manufacturing constraints can impact gross margins. Additionally, given its extensive geographical foothold the company is continuously adversely impacted by exchange rate volatility while competition remains headwind.”

Meredith (NYSE:MDP) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Meredith has outperformed the industry in the past three months. The company’s strategic initiatives particularly in digital space, brand licensing activities, solid portfolio of television stations and robust earnings surprise history reinforce its position as one of the leading media and marketing companies. The company remains optimistic to generate solid no-political adverting revenues in Local Media Group attributable to robust demand for automotive and professional services. Moreover, the company’s recent merger agreement with Time Inc. for $2.8 billion cash, bodes well. Nevertheless, waning print media trends due to shift from traditional advertising and stiff competition continues to pose concerns for investors. Meanwhile, earnings in both the second quarter and fiscal 2018 are anticipated to decline year over year as the fiscal 2017 benefited from record political advertising revenues.”

Model N (NYSE:MODN) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “The successful integration of Revitas boosted Model N’s performance as well as its customer base. Management is also optimistic about the steady progress in the company’s transformation to a 100% Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based model. The Revenue Cloud offering for med-tech, pharma and high tech companies is also gaining traction, driving expansion in customer base. Moreover, the transition to cloud-based applications will drive recurring revenue growth in the long term. However, the company is yet to report profit, which doesn't augur well for investors. Moreover, the company is facing stiff competition as evident from inconsistent revenue growth.”

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Microsoft shares have outperformed the industry it belongs to over the past one year. We expect rapid adoption of Azure and Office 365 to remain the key catalysts in the near future. This along with lower spending will drive operating margin expansion in fiscal 2018. We believe that collaborations with the likes of Amazon, Red Hat, Symantec, Cray and PAREXEL are positive for the company's growth prospects. We also believe that Microsoft’s strategic initiatives to enter the augmented reality and virtual reality market with the acquisition of Altspace VR and launch of mixed reality headsets will be positives. Additionally, Microsoft’s recent blockchain deals with Hapoalim and Accenture and its Coco framework are tailwinds. However, intense competition from Sony’s PS4 is a headwind. Additionally, declining PC shipments doesn't bode well for the company.”

Annaly Capital Management (NYSE:NLY) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Shares of Annaly have outperformed the industry in the past year. Moreover, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for fourth-quarter 2017 earnings remained unchanged in a month’s time. Going forward, the company’s prudent selection of assets, diversified investment and financing options, as well as exposure to high-quality mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) are anticipated to support bottom-line growth. Also, a strong financial position has enabled the company to maintain a consistent dividend payout for 17 consecutive quarters. However, the company faces stiff competition from other financial institutions. Further, adverse macro-economic conditions and any rise in rate of interest may add to the company’s woes.”

Intec Pharma (NASDAQ:NTEC) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Intec Pharma Ltd. is a biopharmaceutical company. The company focused on developing drugs through proprietary Accordion Pill platform technology. Its product candidates in clinical trial stages consists of Accordion Pill Carbidopa/Levodopa developed for the indication of treatment of Parkinson’s disease symptoms; Accordion Pill Zaleplon is being developed for the indication of treatment of insomnia, including sleep induction and the improvement of sleep maintenance. Intec Pharma Ltd. is based in JERUSALEM, Israel. “

NTN Buzztime (NYSEAMERICAN:NTN) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “NTN Buzztime, Inc.is a leading developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment for massive audiences on numerous consumer platforms. Millions of people are exposed to the Buzztime Network every month in restaurants, sports bars and pubs throughout the U.S., Canada and the UK. Originating from the Buzztime iTV Studio in Carlsbad, CA for over 20 years, the Network includes trivia game shows, card games, live sports games, polling and other games that enable a virtually unlimited number of people to play live competitions against one another for fun, prizes and fame. Buzztime’s programming is also available on cable TV, satellite TV, mobile phones, electronic home games, portable travel games and as a trivia book series. The Company also owns and operates NTN Hospitality Technologies which develops, sells and services software and technology that increase productivity and sales in casual dining restaurants. “

Nova Measuring Instruments (NASDAQ:NVMI) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “NOVA MEASURING develops, produces and markets monitoring and measurement systems for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. The company has pioneered the Integrated Metrology concept and is now expanding its activities by developing Integrated Monitoring and Process Control systems for CMP, CVD, Photolithography and Etch manufacturing processes. The company’s systems for CMP process control, delivering systems for CMP process control, delivering have measured more wafers than all other metrology companies combined. “

Corporate Office Properties Trust (NYSE:OFC) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “Corporate Office Properties Trust is a fully-integrated and self-managed real estate investment trust that focuses principally on the ownership, management, leasing, acquisition and development of suburban office buildings located in select submarkets in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Corporate Office Properties operates three real estate service companies: Corporate Development Services, Corporate Office Services and Corporate Management Services. “

OFS Capital (NASDAQ:OFS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a sell rating. According to Zacks, “OFS Capital Corporation is a closed-end, non-diversified management investment company. It is engaged in providing capital to North American middle market companies. Its investment objective is to provide its stockholders with both current income and capital appreciation primarily through debt investments and equity investments in asset classes including senior secured, unitranche, second-lien and mezzanine loans. “

ONE Gas (NYSE:OGS) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “ONE Gas, Inc. is a natural gas local distribution company. The company operates primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas through Oklahoma Natural Gas, Kansas Gas Service and Texas Gas Service. ONE Gas, Inc. is based in Tulsa, United States. “

OM Asset Management (NYSE:OMAM) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “OM Asset Management plc operates as a multi-boutique asset management company. It provides its services to individuals and institutions. The Company offers products in domestic and international equities, fixed income, and alternative investments, such as timber and real estate. OM Asset Management plc is based Boston, Massachusetts. “

Orbotech (NASDAQ:ORBK) was downgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a buy rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Orbotech LTD. is the world leader in the design, development, manufacture and marketing of AOI systems for use in the manufacture of printed circuit boards and flat panel displays and is a leader in the design, development, manufacture and marketing of imaging solutions for PCB production and of AOI systems for use in the electronics assembly industry. They market computer aided manufacturing solutions for PCB production and continue to develop its proprietary AOI technologies for use in other applications both within and outside the electronics industry. (press release) “

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