Equity Brief: Ratings Changes for December 7th: NTRS, NVS, ONNN, ORCL, PHM, PNC, PRU, PXP

Fri Dec 7, 2012 10:15am EST

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A number of stocks were upgraded and downgraded by equities research analysts today, as reported by Analyst Ratings Network (http://bit.ly/equitybriefdaily) and Equity Brief:

Zacks reiterated its neutral rating on shares of Northern Trust Co. (NTRS). They have a $50.00 price target on the stock. Zacks' analyst wrote, "Northern Trust Corporation's third-quarter 2012 earnings lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Overall, results were impacted by lower revenues, though decreased non-interest expenses partially offset the decline. Shrinkage in expenses reflects prudent cost management by the company, but deteriorating credit quality was a negative for the quarter. We expect increased asset management and servicing fees based on significant improvement in equity markets and higher volumes. Moreover, accomplishment of expense reduction initiatives will act as a positive in the near term. However, the Dodd-Frank Act will bring in numerous regulatory changes over the next several years, which might act as deterrents to the company's fundamentals."

Morgan Stanley downgraded shares of Novartis (NVS) from an overweight rating to an equal weight rating.

Lazard initiated coverage on shares of ON Semiconductor (ONNN). They issued a neutral rating on the stock.

Wedbush initiated coverage on shares of Oracle (ORCL). They issued a neutral rating on the stock and set a $36.00 price target.

Topeka Capital initiated coverage on shares of PulteGroup, Inc. (PHM). They issued a buy rating on the stock. They wrote, "We believe the catalysts for PulteGroup are pricing power at 70% of active neighborhoods, reduced speculative home sales, and growing demand for move-up homes. We anticipate PHM's restructuring efforts over the last two years should result in approximately 70.0% YoY 2013 EPS growth."

Zacks reiterated its neutral rating on shares of PNC Financial Services (PNC). They have a $59.00 price target on the stock. Zacks' analyst wrote, "PNC Financial's third-quarter 2012 earnings outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Higher non-interest income and an improved top line were the key drivers of earnings. Improvement in credit quality and stable capital position were the other positives. However, lower net interest margin and a fall in net interest income acted as dampeners. We believe that PNC Financial is well positioned to grow given its diverse revenue mix, balance sheet strengthening efforts, strategic acquisitions and solid capital levels. The RBC Bank (USA) acquisition is projected to be accretive to 2012 earnings, excluding integration costs. Capital deployment activities also serve as positive catalysts. Yet, a tepid economic recovery, continued low interest rate environment and increased regulatory headwinds are our concerns."

SunTrust initiated coverage on shares of PNC Financial Services (PNC). They issued a buy rating on the stock and set a $62.00 price target.

Sandler O'Neill downgraded shares of Prudential Financial, Inc. (PRU) from a buy rating to a hold rating.

Johnson Rice downgraded shares of Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) from an equalweight rating to an equal weight rating.

Capital One downgraded shares of Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) from an add rating to a neutral rating.

KeyBanc downgraded shares of Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) from a buy rating to a hold rating. They wrote, "We are downgrading Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP-NYSE) to HOLD from BUY based on valuation given the recently announced acquisition by Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold (FCX) in which PXP shareholders will receive half of the transaction consideration in cash ($25/share) and the remainder in FCX common stock, which will ultimately determine the closing value of the deal (0.6531 FCX shares per PXP share). Based on yesterday's closing price of $44.50/share, we view the deal metrics positively at $91,066/flowing BOED of production, $29.11/BOE of proved reserves and 4.35x 2013E EBITDAX."

Piper Jaffray downgraded shares of Regal Entertainment (RGC) from an overweight rating to a neutral rating. Their analysts now have a $16.00 price target on the stock.

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