Stocks quoted in this article:
U.S. stocks are modestly higher this afternoon, as Wall Street awaits the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes. Meanwhile, among the equities in focus are molecular diagnostics concern Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN), home improvement retailer Lowe's Companies, Inc. (NYSE:LOW), and hotel chain Marriott International Inc (NASDAQ:MAR), which have all attracted analyst attention.
- ILMN is up 2% at $173.89, after Wedbush upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral," and hiked its price target to $200 from $165. The new target implies expected upside of 15% from Illumina, Inc.'s current perch, and stands in uncharted territory for the shares. On the charts, ILMN has soared more than 57% in 2014, yet eight out of 18 analysts maintain tepid "hold" opinions, leaving the door open for additional upgrades to lure more buyers.
- After plunging out of the gate, the shares of LOW have clawed their way to a fractional gain, with the stock last seen at $51.65. The stock initially retreated in the wake of Lowe's Companies, Inc.'s downwardly revised sales guidance, but traders appear to have adopted the glass-half-full approach, after CEO Robert Niblock waxed optimistic on spending heading into the holidays. Meanwhile, Canaccord Genuity increased its price target on LOW to $40 from $37 -- though the new target still represents a steep discount to the stock's current price -- and underscored its "sell" suggestion.
- Finally, MAR has added 0.5% to wink at $68.50, and earlier notched a fresh all-time high of $68.53, thanks to a price-target hike to $68 from $64 at Morgan Stanley. The equity has advanced nearly 39% year-to-date, yet Wall Street remains skeptical. Nine out of 20 analysts maintain "hold" or "sell" opinions, and short interest represents more than a week's worth of pent-up buying demand, at Marriott International Inc's average pace of trading. Plus, option buyers have been picking up MAR puts over calls at an annual-high clip, as the stock's 10-day put/call volume ratio on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX) sits at a 52-week peak of 11.53. A flood of upgrades, a short-squeeze situation, or a mass exodus of option bears could usher MAR even higher.