Equities Research Analysts’ upgrades for Thursday, August 17th:

The AES Corporation (NYSE:AES) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $13.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “AES Corp. reported better-than-expected results on both top and bottom line fronts in the second quarter of 2017. Results were impressive year over year as well. AES Corp continues to streamline its portfolio through asset divestments and by exiting markets and businesses where it does not have or cannot develop a competitive advantage. The company’s strategy of reducing complexity through withdrawal of operations in the risk markets is appreciable. Further, its efforts to expand the generation business and renewable assets could drive growth going forward. The company also holds a strong liquidity position, which allowed management to make a promise of 10% growth in dividend, every year. However, commodity price volatility, stringent environmental regulations, and political and operational risks continue to pose challenges for the stock.”

Amphenol Corporation (NYSE:APH) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $89.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Amphenol reported all-time high second-quarter 2017 results with healthy year-over-year increases in both earnings and revenues. Amphenol is benefiting from improved end-market demand, new product rollouts, and market share gains. Demand continues to be strong in automotive, mobile networks and military markets. Amphenol remains encouraged by its expanding presence in the fast-growing commercial aerospace market and is well positioned to capitalize on the proliferation of electronics content on next-generation planes. The company outperformed the industry in the last three months on diligent execution of plans. However, bulk of the company’s revenues comes from sales to the communications industry, demand for which is subject to rapid technological change. Furthermore, increasing cost of raw materials is a matter of concern and is likely to be an additional drag on its profitability.”

Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $179.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Alibaba Group is a Chinese e-Commerce giant which caters mainly to its native market. The company’s fiscal fourth-quarter results exceeded the Zacks Consensus Estimate on revenues but lagged the same on earnings. Also, over the last one year, the stock has outperformed the Zacks characterized Electronic Commerce industry. Alibaba’s strong  core e-commerce business, its continued efforts to develop new products, international growth opportunities, strong financial positionand and growing cloud computing services are positives. However, macro headwinds, continued investments and increasing competition from Tencent Holdings and Baidu remain the overhangs.”

Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $57.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of Big Lots have outperformed the industry in the past three months. The company's strategic endeavors, recent uptrend in the gross margin and positive earnings surprise streak in the last six quarters, all indicate that stock is likely to carry the momentum going forward. In the first-quarter fiscal 2017, the company not only reported robust earnings but also surpassed the guidance range provided previously. Moreover, following better-than-expected first-quarter earnings the company raised fiscal 2017 guidance and now expects adjusted earnings in the $4.05–$4.20, up from the earlier guidance of $3.95–$4.10. While the company’s dismal top-line performance in the trailing four quarters has been a cause of worry, its furniture financing programs has been consistently gaining traction. Further, the challenging retail landscape, aggressive promotional strategies and waning store traffic might weigh on the performance.”

Celestica (NYSE:CLS) (TSE:CLS) was upgraded by analysts at Standpoint Research from a hold rating to a buy rating.

Comerica (NYSE:CMA) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $80.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Comerica’s shares have outperformed the industry over the past year. The company’s second-quarter 2017 results surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Results reflected increased revenues and improving credit quality along with lower expenses. Comerica’s future prospects look promising as it improvised the financial targets for revenue and efficiency initiatives (GEAR Up). Further, easing of margin pressure driven by the Fed rate hikes is encouraging. Notably, the expectation of lesser regulations will act as a tailwind for the company in the medium term. Though exposure to Michigan and California, two challenging economies, remains a headwind, Comerica’s active involvement in capital deployment activities is commendable.”

Fomento Economico Mexicano S.A.B. de C.V. (NYSE:FMX) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $113.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “FEMSA outperformed the broader industry in the last three months. The company is on track to drive growth through strategic measures, including increasing store count, diversifying business portfolio and focusing on core business activities. Further, its exposure in various industries including beverage, beer and retail, gives it an edge over competitors. Also, FEMSA's strong cash flow generation capacity enables it to make incremental investments in business expansion. However, second-quarter 2017 results marked its fourth consecutive earnings miss, while sales lagged estimates for the second straight time. Moreover, the company continued to witness margin pressures due to decline in margins at Coca-Cola FEMSA and lower-margin businesses growth at FEMSA Comercio, as well as higher operating expenses at Coca-Cola FEMSA and FEMSA Comercio’s Health division. Nevertheless, FEMSA's focus on achieving growth via acquisitions bode well.”

Gerdau (NYSE:GGB) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $4.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Year to date, Gerdau's American Depository Receipts (ADR) have outperformed the industry. We believe that the company's product portfolio and manufacturing techniques will help it grow over the long term. Its international diversity provides support to the top line. Also, its strategy of disposing loss-making assets/businesses will enable it to focus on the profitable ones. Going forward, any investment by the government in infrastructure improvements will boost steel demand in these regions, thereby creating lucrative market conditions for steel producers like Gerdau. For 2017, Gerdau expects capital expenditure to be R$1.3 billion.”

Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes (NYSE:GOL) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $17.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of GOL Linhas have outperformed its industry in the last six months. Ushering in further good news, the company reported better-than-expected results in the second quarter of 2017. Moreover, the top line improved significantly year over year. The carrier's view for full-year 2017 is also encouraging. An improving Latin American economy is also aiding GOL Linhas. We expect the company’s focus on capacity discipline to result in increasing yields, going forward. Moreover, we are positive on the steps taken by the carrier to overcome its struggles. In fact, the company's efforts to modernize its fleet are also impressive. However, GOL is highly dependent on the products of certain big suppliers and operates in a competitive Latin American airline space.”

Haemonetics Corporation (NYSE:HAE) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $48.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Haemonetics exited first-quarter fiscal 2018 on a mixed note, with earnings beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate and revenues missing the same. Despite the encouraging growth in the Plasma and Haemonetics Management franchises, the underperformance at BloodCenter was quite a dampener. Meanwhile, the company’s strong cash position boosts investors’ confidence.Also the year-over-year increase in reported sales and gross margin buoys optimism. The company swung to operating income in the first quarter of fiscal 2018 from losses in the year-ago quarter. The company is also optimistic about strong market adoption of its NexSys PCS plasmapheresis system which recently received FDA approval. For the past six months, Haemonetics has been trading above the broader industry.”

Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $111.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Hasbro’s second-quarter 2017 adjusted earnings of $0.53 per share surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 15.2% and surged 29.3% year over year. Meanwhile, revenues of $972.5 million rose 11% year over year but slightly lagged the consensus mark. The company’s revenues projected improvement in three out of its four brand portfolio categories. However, Hasbro’s shares underperformed the industry over the past one year. Even so, recent upward estimate revisions for the current year raise optimism. Consistent efforts to establish its presence worldwide via strategic partnerships and rapid expansion in emerging markets also bode well. This year’s rich content slate, supreme gaming portfolio and diverse new initiatives should further drive growth. Yet, increased competition from alternative modes of entertainment might limit top-line growth, while high costs along with macroeconomic and currency headwinds may hurt profits.”

Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $155.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Honeywell reported healthy second-quarter 2017 results, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 1.1%. Honeywell’s diversified business portfolio has the potential to earn consistent above-average returns and mitigate operating risks through a balanced organic and inorganic model. A diligent focus on working capital management, free cash flow generation and a conservative balance sheet remain key positives. With a flexible yet disciplined focus on cost and productivity, Honeywell remains focused on increasing its presence in high-growth regions. The company also outperformed the industry year to date. However, adverse foreign currency translations, high R&D expenses to fend off competition and volatility in commodity prices related to the Brexit referendum are likely to peg back its growth momentum to some extent.”

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. The firm currently has $40.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Intel’s second-quarter 2017 results demonstrated the company’s growing focus on the data-centric part of the business. The recent launch of Xeon Scalable is anticipated to benefit its footprint in the data center as well as AI and IoT space, going forward. Further, anticipated improvement in cost structure and lower spending, primarily due to improving operational efficiency will aid in expansion of margins going forward. Additionally, aggressive share buyback will boost the bottom line in 2017. However, we note that Intel has underperformed the industry on a year-to-date basis, which can be attributed to growing competition from AMD in the data center space. We also note that the top-PC makers like HP, Lenovo, and Asus are set to launch PCs based on Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon processor, which intensifies competition for Intel. We believe that this is a significant headwind amid declining PC shipments.”

lululemon athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. Zacks Investment Research currently has $67.00 price target on the stock. According to Zacks, “Lululemon stock has made notable recovery, outperforming the industry in the last three months. The company delivered top and bottom line beat in first-quarter fiscal 2017, which has considerably boosted stock price. Further, the company is all set to utilize its capabilities built in fiscal 2015 over the next five years. In fact, by 2020, the company aims to double its revenues to about $4 billion and more than double its earnings. Moreover, the company’s eCommerce growth initiatives and ivivva remodeling bode well. We note that the company’s eCommerce comps improved in the low-double digits range so far in the fiscal second-quarter. This led the company to provide solid comps guidance for the second quarter and fiscal 2017, reflecting further strengthening of eCommerce business. However, in-store comps continue to suffer. The company also tweaked revenue forecast for fiscal 2017, which indicates further weakness.”

Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) was upgraded by analysts at Zacks Investment Research from a hold rating to a buy rating. They currently have $148.00 target price on the stock. According to Zacks, “Shares of Moody’s have significantly outperformed the industry so far this year. The company’s second-quarter 2017 earnings easily surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Results reflected strong revenue growth, partially offset by a rise in expenses. The company remains well positioned to improve profitability on the back of its dominant position in the credit rating industry, diverse revenue base and disintermediation of credit markets. While stricter regulatory landscapes, mounting expenses and stiff competition across the credit rating industry continue to be major near term concerns, the company's inorganic growth strategy and resultant synergies should further support top-line growth going forward.”

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