NEW YORK (AP) ¿ An analyst upgraded health care consulting company Advisory Board Co. Wednesday, citing improvements in operating budgets, pricing, admissions and profitability for hospitals despite high levels of debt.

Frank Sparacino of First Analysis Securities raised his rating to "Overweight" from "Equal Weight" and initiated a share price target of $30.

The financial health of hospitals has been strong since the beginning of this year and should boost Advisory Board to double-digit earnings growth by March, Sparacino said.

Advisory Board, which offers subscription-based programs to health care systems, has made significant progress in automating data collection and shown "stellar execution in a difficult environment" compared to its competitors, Sparacino said.

Still, he said he expects 2010 contract renewal rates at the low end of historical ranges given a challenging first half of the fiscal year.

Shares of Advisory Board finished Tuesday's trading at $25.01.
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