Investment Analysts’ Upgrades for February, 13th (AAL, ABM, ADBE, AEE, AFSI, AMKR, ANET, ATVI, CTSH, DCI)

Investment Analysts’ upgrades for Tuesday, February 13th:

American Airlines Group (NASDAQ:AAL) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $56.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of American Airlines have outperformed its industry in the last three months. The company reported better-than-expected earnings per share and revenues in the fourth quarter of 2017. Additionally, both metrics improved on a year-over-year basis. Strong demand for air travel coupled with improving yields also aided results. The company's performance with respect to unit revenues was also encouraging in the quarter. Efforts to modernize its fleet too raise optimism in the stock. The company efforts to reward shareholders through dividends and share buybacks are also impressive. During 2017, the company returned $1.7 billion to shareholders through dividends and buybacks. However, high costs and debt levels are a cause for worry. “

ABM Industries (NYSE:ABM) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $40.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “ABM has developed a platform to deliver an end-to-end service model to its clients by realigning its operational structure to an on-site, mobile and on-demand market based structure. This realignment has improved its long-term growth prospects and has provided higher margin opportunities by enabling it to better deliver end-to-end services to its clients. ABM remains focused on driving sustainable profitability by effectively allocating resources to high margin services and business verticals with a strong competitive edge. The company further expects to extend its global footprint and strengthen its position in existing markets through both inorganic and organic growth. However, ABM has underperformed the industry in the last three months due to macroeconomic concerns. Strong competitive pressures could limit ABM’s success rate in bidding for profitable businesses and its ability to increase prices in accordance with the rising costs.”

Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $215.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Adobe has outperformed the industry it belongs to in the last one year. Adobe has been making great efforts toward establishing its presence in cloud-related software areas such as documents and marketing. Adobe Experience Manager, which enables brands to offer a personalized experience, is also witnessing robust growth. Year to date, the stock has outperformed the industry it belongs to. We remain optimistic about Adobe’s market position, compelling product lines, continued innovation, solid adoption of Creative Cloud and Adobe marketing cloud.  Also, its acquisition of TubeMogul will help the company to build its position in the expanding Digital Marketing space. However, end-market recovery appears slow which remains a matter of concern.”

Ameren (NYSE:AEE) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Ameren Corp's stable financial position enables Ameren to maximize shareholder value through the payment of regular dividends and repurchase of shares. Over the long term, the company earlier increased its expected capital expenditure plan, specifically during the 2017-2021 time frame. Also, a stable financial position enables Ameren to maximize shareholder value through the payment of regular dividends and repurchase of shares. Its share price has also outperformed the broader industry in the last one year. However, Ameren Corp's aging infrastructure may pose risks to system reliability and force it to incur unplanned capital expenditures and operating costs. Ameren's generation and delivery facilities are subject to risks associated with breakdown or failure of equipment or processes due to fuel supply or transportation disruptions, accidents and labor disputes or work stoppages by employees.”

AmTrust Financial Services (NASDAQ:AFSI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $14.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “AmTrust Financial’s leadership position in commercial small business, expansion of other segments and an impressive inorganic growth story poise it well for growth. The company also aims to build an investment portfolio that returns in line with the sector. The slow but improving rate environment also raises optimism. Plus, a strong balance sheet facilitates growth initiatives and effective capital deployment. The company also witnessed the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 moved 5.2% north over the last 60 days. However, a high level of debt increases interest burden and escalates expenses, thereby hurting margin. Exposure to cat environment induced volatility in underwriting results. Shares of AmTrust Financial have underperformed the industry in a year's time.”

Amkor Technology (NASDAQ:AMKR) was upgraded by analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG from a neutral rating to an outperform rating.

Arista Networks (NYSE:ANET) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $319.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Arista is a dominant name in the data center networking market. Shares of the company have outperformed the industry over the past one year. The company’s robust product portfolio remains a key catalyst. Arista is benefiting from strong demand for 100-gigabit routing and switching products, particularly from cloud titans. Management stated that FlexRoute license (almost 150 customers) has helped the company enter additional layers of the spine for routing and data-center interconnect, where Cisco and Juniper were dominant names. Moreover, ample cash balance provides Arista the flexibility required to pursue any growth strategy, whether by way of acquisitions or otherwise. However, Arista faces stiff competition in the cloud networking solutions, particularly in the 10 Gigabit Ethernet and above. Moreover, ongoing lawsuits with Cisco are the primary headwind.”

Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $77.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Activision reported encouraging fourth-quarter 2017 results. Shares have outperformed the industry in the past year. The company's popularity is primarily driven by its well-known franchises, which will continue to fuel top-line growth. Increasing digital revenues, King Digital buyout and strength in franchises such as Call of Duty, Destiny & Overwatch are the key drivers. The company’s attempts to become a broad-based media company are prudent in our view. Apart from launching a movie studio and consumer products division, the company is also strengthening its presence in the lucrative e-sports market. However, hit driven and competitive nature of the video game industry begets caution.”

Cognizant Technology Solutions (NASDAQ:CTSH) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $87.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Cognizant reported impressive fourth-quarter 2017 results. Both earnings and revenues increased on a year-over-year basis. Growth can be attributed to its 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. Cognizant is benefiting from domain expertise as well as its ability to harness the ongoing digital transition. The company is also significantly gaining from accretive acquisitions and share repurchase program. In the past one-year, Cognizant has outperformed the industry it belongs to. 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.”

Donaldson (NYSE:DCI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $53.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Donaldson has an impressive earnings surprise history, having beaten estimates thrice in the trailing four quarters. Its Engine Products segment has been showing great momentum, benefiting from stabilization in market conditions and robust sales of replacement parts. The company’s strategy of winning first-fit programs, aftermarket growth, constant geographic expansion and fostering innovative technology are likely to act as growth catalysts going forward. Donaldson is committed to achieve sustained improvement in operational efficiency through strategic restructuring actions and improved customer relations. Over the past three months, the company shares have outperformed the industry average.   However, Donaldson’s sales continue to be hurt by prolonged weakness in the gas turbine market. Soft demand for industrial filtration solutions could also hamper growth.”

Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $178.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Deere is poised to gain from the Wirtgen acquisition. The buyout will aid Deere’s North America-centric construction business and also catapult it to the position of an industry leader in global road construction. The company expects that its disciplined cost management and continued investment in innovative technology and solutions will drive its near term results. The Construction and Forestry segment is expected to be the primary growth driver for Deere. This is backed by positive conditions in residential and non-residential markets in the United States as well as an improved oil and gas sector. Recovery in the dairy and livestock sectors will drive growth in the EU28 region. Further, Deere’s acquisition of Blue River Technology remains a tailwind. The stock has outperformed the industry in the last year. Its estimates have also been revised upward lately.”

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “Duke Energy boasts a robust five-year capital plan and currently plans to invest about $37 billion in growth projects over the 2017-2021 time frame. Going forward, the company’s five-year plan also includes investment of $3.3 billion in highly-efficient natural gas-fired combined-cycle plants. The company's loss was narrower than the broader industry's loss in the last 12 months. Potential volatility in market prices of fuel, electricity and other renewable energy commodities could create operational risks for the company. Duke Energy also faces challenges from severe weather conditions and natural calamities like hurricanes, which may result in breakdown and damage its infrastructure. This may interrupt the operations of the company and affect its performance.”

Expeditors International of Washington (NASDAQ:EXPD) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $70.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of Expeditors have outperformed its industry over the past year. The stock rallied 13% while its industry lost 0.8% in the period. The company has been benefitting from volume growth across all its primary divisions. Its efforts to reward shareholders through dividend payments and buybacks are encouraging. The company hiked its dividend payout by 5% in May 2017. The company's sound balance sheet is also encouraging. Its asset-light business model allows it to maintain a debt-free balance sheet. However, high operating expenses have the potantial to hurt the bottom line in the fourth quarter as well. Detailed results will be out on Feb 20. “

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $70.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “First Solar continues to focus on retaining its competitive edge and aims to further consolidate its position in the solar market. In fact, First Solar’s constant product innovation efforts will continue to attract customers and expand its revenue stream. It is able to develop economically sustainable businesses as it has established its expertise in PV generation solutions as well as in other areas of the solar-value chain. The company also outperformed the broader industry in the last year. However, the company faces intense competition from manufacturers of crystalline-silicon solar modules, and other types of solar modules and PV systems.”

Fortinet (NASDAQ:FTNT) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $52.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Fortinet reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter 2017 results. The year over year comparisons were also favorable on both the counts. Notably, Fortinet has outperformed the industry in the last one year. Going ahead, we believe that the company’s strategy of focusing on selling subscription-based services will enable it to generate more stable revenues and help in expanding margins. Furthermore, acquisitions are a major positive for Fortinet as these help it to strengthen its product portfolio and capabilities, thereby boosting its top-line performance. Nonetheless, we are slightly concerned over the company’s declining revenue growth rate. Notably, over the last six quarters, the company’s revenue growth rates have been around 20%, which are significantly lower than its previous rates of over 30%. Also, a tepid first quarter revenue outlook makes us slightly cautious about its near-term performance.”

HollyFrontier (NYSE:HFC) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating. They currently have $51.00 target price 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. A strong financial position and attractive yields are other positives in the HFC story. Finally, we expect improving refining outlook to buoy the company’s bottom line in the fourth quarter of 2017. Consequently, we think HollyFrontier offers substantial upside potential from the current price levels and view it as a preferred energy play to own now.”

Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE:IPG) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $25.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Interpublic’s digital capabilities, diversified business model and geographic reach offer a distinctive competitive advantage. The company continues to look for strategic investments/acquisitions to expand in high-growth regions and key world markets. The company plans to focus on de-leveraging and improving its balance sheet and reducing effective cost of debt. Interpublic expects to strengthen its position with respect to new business activities as well as opportunities from existing and new clients. The company’s efforts in reducing costs, continuous margin improvement, stronger balance sheet and better capital structure should improve its profitability. Interpublic also outperformed the industry in the last three months. However, Interpublic is likely to be stifled by the renegotiated deals and restrictions imposed on trade with other European Union members post the Brexit referendum, lowering its productivity.”

Kinross Gold (NYSE:KGC) (TSE:K) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating. They currently have $4.50 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Kinross has outperformed the industry it belongs to over a year. Kinross is making steady progress in advancing the projects that give it a strong growth profile among leading gold producers. The Tasiast expansion is expected to significantly contribute to the company’s future growth. The company also remains focused on managing costs and improving cash flow.”

LKQ (NASDAQ:LKQ) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $45.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “In December, LKQ Corp has signed an agreement to acquire the German spare-parts distributor Stahlgruber. This acquisition is in sync with its strategy to expand its presence in Europe through acquisitions and new branch openings for counter sales and distribution centers. In third-quarter 2017, LKQ Corp acquired 11 companies. However, these frequent acquisitions are hampering its gross margin figures. Also, rising expenses due to fluctuating prices of fuel, scrap metal and other commodities and product recalls are few of the other concerns for the company. Also, over a month, LKQ Corp’s has underperformed the industry it belongs to.”

McCormick & Company, Incorporated (NYSE:MKC) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $115.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “McCormick has outdone the industry in a year, backed by its focus on buyouts, innovations, cost savings and efficient marketing initiatives. These factors helped the company retain its stellar past record in fourth-quarter fiscal 2017, wherein both top and bottom lines rose year over year and topped estimates. While earnings gained from solid sales and cost savings, sales gained from buyouts, strong growth in the base business and new product additions. Notably, buyouts aided sales growth of 15%, and will likely remain a major driver. However, stiff competition in the food space may hurt profits. Also, the company remains susceptible to high material costs, which are expected to rise in fiscal 2018. Nonetheless, these are likely to be cushioned by the company’s CCI program, which has been boosting margins for quite some time. Further, management expects these factors to continue driving McCormick, as reflected in its fiscal 2018 view.”

NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $65.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “NetApp is a provider of enterprise storage and data management software and hardware products and services. The company’s expertise in the flash array market is increasing its prominence in the storage area network (SAN) and converged infrastructure markets. Shares of the company have outperformed the industry in the past one year. The company’s newly launched hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is also expected to be a positive for the top-line growth in the long run. We believe NetApp is well positioned to enjoy steady growth driven by its diversified portfolio and strong distribution channels. These will drive demand for the company's products going forward. However, the company has been experiencing declining OEM revenues since two straight fiscals. Moreover, intensifying competition from bellwethers such as HP Inc., Dell, IBM and Oracle is a major headwind.”

Nucor (NYSE:NUE) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $73.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Nucor’s profits surged year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2017. Adjusted earnings and sales also beat the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate in the quarter. Nucor remains committed to expand its production capabilities and grow its business through strategic acquisitions. It is also seeing continued momentum in the automotive market.”

Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $53.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Public Service Enterprise's consistent capital-investment plans backed by a stable liquidity position have the potential to boost its performance. The investments made so far have helped in increasing the fleet's generation capacity and improve its operating efficiency. Apart from focusing on transmission and distribution infrastructure, the company is also expanding its renewable assets. The company has a solid portfolio of regulated and non-regulated utility assets that offer stable earnings and significant long-term growth potential. Its share price has outperformed the broader industry over a year. However, the company’s huge capital investment remains a concern.”

QEP Resources (NYSE:QEP) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $8.75 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “With a diversified asset base, exposure to emerging plays and increased focus on the quality acreage of the prolific Permian Basin, this mid-cap onshore-focused E&P offers a compelling value. QEP Resources has maintained its excellent track record of earnings surprise history, beating estimates in each of the last eleven quarters. Since its split from Questar Corp. in 2010, QEP has established a strong track record of production growth, while maintaining a competitive cost structure that has enabled the company to maintain its margins amid low oil prices. With focus on operating efficiency, a robust balance sheet and ample liquidity, we believe QEP is well positioned going forward and view it as an attractive investment.”

Regal Beloit (NYSE:RBC) 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, “Regal Beloit reported decent fourth-quarter 2017 results with adjusted earnings in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate, on the back of modest organic growth and positive order trends. Over the years, the company has consolidated its product lines and streamlined product brands to evolve as a dynamic enterprise. In order to drive continuous improvement, Regal Beloit continues to focus on prudent investment decisions for a disciplined capital allocation, strong and flexible balance sheet position and cash flow enhancement to support dividend growth. Regal Beloit continues to focus on simplification initiatives to lower operating costs and improve margins in the future. The company expects organic growth for 2018 in low single digits with healthy demand trends. However, margin pressures, high concentration risks and adverse foreign currency translation remain headwinds. Regal Beloit has also underperformed the industry in the last three months.”

Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $116.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Ralph Lauren outperformed the industry in the past six months backed by robust bottom-line performance in recent quarters. Notably, third-quarter fiscal 2018 marked the company’s 12th consecutive earnings beat while sales lagged estimates after a beat in the previous quarter. Results gained from stringent focus on key initiatives during the holiday season that reduced discounts and improved the quality of sales. Furthermore, gross margin expanded driven by favorable geographic and channel mix shifts along with lower promotions and reduced product costs. Favorable currency rates aided results as well. Management adjusted fiscal 2018 outlook to account for the positive currency rates, which are likely to aid revenues and operating margins. However, its North America business continues to suffer due to distribution and brand exits, planned reduction in shipments and promotions to enhance the quality of sales, and lower customer demand.”

Sonoco Products (NYSE:SON) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $56.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “For 2017, Sonoco's earnings per share guidance range is at $2.75-$2.81, the mid-point of which reflects year-over-year growth of 2.2%. Sonoco estimates that its adjusted earnings per share for 2018 will be in the range of $3.00-$3.10. The company remains committed to executing its ‘Grow and Optimize’ strategy, which is focused on targeted growth of Consumer Packaging and Protective Solutions businesses along with optimizing Industrial-focused businesses. The acquisitions of Clear Lam Packaging and Peninsula Packaging significantly expand Sonoco’s flexible packaging and thermoforming plastics capabilities. Additionally, it remains focused on accelerating organic growth by introducing new commercial products, improving manufacturing productivity and gaining market share.”

INC Research (NASDAQ:SYNH) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $41.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “INC Research Holdings, Inc. is a global contract research organization. It provides the full range of Phase I to Phase IV clinical development services for the biopharmaceutical and medical device industries. Its services include clinical trial management services comprising patient recruitment and retention, project management, clinical monitoring, drug safety/pharmacovigilance, medical affairs, quality assurance, regulatory and medical writing, and functional service; and data services consisting of clinical data management, electronic data capture, and biostatistics. INC Research Holdings, Inc. is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina. “

Trueblue (NYSE:TBI) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating. They currently have $31.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “TrueBlue, Inc. is a leading provider of specialized workforce solutions, helping clients improve growth and performance by providing staffing, workforce management, and recruitment process outsourcing solutions. The company’s specialized workforce solutions meet clients’ needs for a reliable, efficient workforce in a wide variety of industries. “

Telefonica (NYSE:TEF) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “We expect Telefonica to benefit from the launch of video services in several Latin-American markets, widespread adoption of broadband and data services, pricing revision, network enhancement and strategic collaborations, continued focus on organic growth and portfolio optimization. Telefonica is also capitalizing on the opportunities in the digital world. However, over the past three months, share price of Telefonica declined 5.8% as against the industry's loss of 2.0%. The company continues to face stiff competition in the domestic and Latin-American markets.  Notably, in Latin America, Telefonica competes with large global telecom operators like AT&T and America Movil. The fallout of the company’s IPO plans and downgradation by Moody's Investors Service was a major setback, apart from the company’s debt laden balance sheet.”

TalkTalk Telecom Group (OTCMKTS:TKTCY) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a sell rating to a hold rating. According to Zacks, “TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC is engaged in the business of fixed line voice and broadband telecommunications in the UK. The Company offers voice telephony, including line rental, calls, and added value services, such as voicemail; broadband Internet access services comprising email; and dial-up Internet access services to residential customers under the TalkTalk and AOL brand names. It also offers voice, data services, telephony systems, and mobile services, as well as information technology networking and security services to business customers under the Opal brand name. TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom. “

TechTarget (NASDAQ:TTGT) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $18.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “TECHTARGET, a leading online Information Technology media company, provides IT companies with ROI-focused marketing programs to generate leads, shorten sales cycles, and grow revenues. The company is also a leading provider of independent, peer and vendor content, a leading distributor of white papers, and a leading producer of vendor-sponsored Webcasts and Podcasts for the IT market. Its Web sites are complemented by numerous invitation-only events and two magazines. TechTarget provides proven lead generation and branding programs to numerous advertisers including Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, SAP and Symantec. “

Vipshop (NYSE:VIPS) was upgraded by analysts at Macquarie from a neutral rating to an outperform rating.

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