CHANGE IN RATINGSChoice Hotels ( CHH) upgraded at Friedman Billings Ramsey from Market-weight to Overweight. $32 price target. Valuation call, with signs of life in the leisure travel market. Concur Technologies ( CNQR) downgraded at Deutsche from Buy to Hold. Valuation call, based on a $32 price target. Amdocs ( DOX) upgraded at Oppenheimer. Rating raised to Outperform from Perform. Introduces $27 price target. Maintains 2009 EPS estimates of $2.02.
Merck ( MRK) downgraded at Natixis to Hold. $27 price target. Zetia is facing more risks as a recent trial was halted. Nuance Communications ( NUAN) initiated at Deutsche Bank. Initiated with a Buy rating and $18 price target. Introduces 2009 EPS estimates of $1.02. Novellus ( NVLS) Upgraded at Barclays to equal weight from underweight and price target increased to $18 from $14. Rating change due to expectations for near-term strength in shares combined with slightly more optimistic view on margins which drives normalized earnings estimate higher to $0.90 from $0.65. Longer-term, Barclays remains concerned about growth outlook but do recognize that previous normalized earnings estimate did not credit the company enough with the level of cost cutting they have done. Penn National ( PENN) upgraded at SMH from Reduce to Neutral. $28.50 price target. Valuation call. Research in Motion ( RIMM) upgraded at Kaufman from Hold to Buy. $79 price target. Stock is down almost 25% from its highs, and the smart phone market has plenty of room to grow. Coverage initiated on Sirona Dental ( SIRO) at Credit Suisse with a neutral rating and $23 price target. SIRO is a leading dental equipment manufacturer that is well positioned to benefit from the longer-term secular trends in the dental industry. Valeant Pharma ( VRX) downgraded at Leerink Swann from Outperform to Market Perform. Valuation call, as the stock is already pricing in higher near-term earnings. Varian Semiconductor ( VSEA) upgraded to overweight from equal weight and price target increased to $35 from $26. The key drivers for upgrade include: 1) expect a beat on the Sep Q guide; 2) VSEA has a strong core franchise aided by aggressive cost cuts; 3) visibility to growth from adjacent opportunities by 2011; and 4) the company has strong leverage to memory makers, which will be the key incremental order driver in 2H09.
Western Union ( WU) upgraded by Credit Suisse to Outperform from Neutral. Beliefs that international remittance volumes are stabilizing and expectations of market share gains led to the increase in ratings. Increased price target to $21 from $19.
STOCK COMMENTS / EPS CHANGESAlcoa ( AA) estimates raised at UBS through 2010. Productivity gains are offsetting lower prices. Neutral rating and $11 price target. Allstate ( ALL) target lowered at Friedman, Billings Ramsey to $38. Deferred acquisition costs are rising faster than premium growth. Outperform rating. Dupont ( DD) estimates, target cut at UBS. Shares of DD now seen reaching $30. Estimates also lowered, to reflect a slower economic recovery. Buy rating. Discovery ( DISCA) estimates boosted at UBS through 2010. Company has had strong ratings and is keeping a lid on costs. Neutral rating and $24 price target. DreamWorks Animation ( DWA) target raised at Goldman to $36 from $34. Expectations of beating their future estimates based on major drivers such as Kung Fu Panda PayTV revenue and Madagascar 2 international DVD sales and a possible takeover bid led to the increase in numbers. Maintained Buy rating. Estee Lauder ( EL) numbers lowered at Goldman to $30 from $31. Expectations of deteriorating organic sales trends and lower guidance led to the decrease in its target price. Maintained Sell rating. Family Dollar ( FDO) numbers increased at UBS through 2010. Company is improving execution during the economic downturn and traffic remains strong. Neutral rating and new $34 price target. Family Dollar ( FDO) numbers raised at Credit Suisse to $34 from $32. The co.'s target price was increased after beating estimates, increasing same store sales, and improving margins. Maintained Neutral rating.
International Speedway ( ISCA) target raised at Ladenburg to $32. Company recently reiterated guidance and is improving its balance sheet. Buy rating. Sun Microsystems ( JAVA) target raised at Goldman to $9 from $3. Cites Oracles intention to acquire the co. and valuation. Maintained Neutral rating. 3PAR ( PAR) target increased at Goldman to $12.50 from $9.00 based on the firm's quantitative analysis/fundamental assessment of the company and possible takeover opportunities. Maintained Neutral rating.