Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: CenturyLink, Dendreon, Gap, ING, VMWare and More

24/7 Wall St.

It is an August Friday, and there are a surprising number of research calls before the week ahead, which is usually the slowest week of the year other than the one between Christmas and New Years. Stocks have pulled back from highs, and investors and active traders are on the hunt for stocks they should be buying and also trying to decide which stocks to avoid or to sell. 24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of Wall Street analyst research reports each day to find new ideas for value investors, growth investors and dividend investors. Here are this Friday's top Wall Street analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations.

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We have predicted that the rising interest rates are still coming, and the 10-year Treasury note is poised to challenge a 3% yield and the 30-year Treasury to challenge the 4% mark. Now Barclays is calling for the 10-year Treasury to reach 3.10% by the end of 2013 and perhaps 3.75% later in 2014. A Merrill Lynch technician on Thursday also showed a next stop on the 10-year yield at about 3.05%, with the first resistance level at about 2.95%. The Treasury yields are currently 2.90% on the 10-year and 3.89% on the 30-year.

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Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) already got crushed after earnings this week, but RW Baird has decided to downgrade the stock to Neutral from Outperform and shares are indicated marginally lower this morning.

Apricus Biosciences Inc. (APRI) was initiated with a Hold rating and a $2 price target at Cantor Fitzgerald. Be advised that $2 is almost 10% under the prior close of $2.18, against a 52-week range of $1.89 to $3.49.

CenturyLink Inc. (CTL) is losing one less adversarial call in a controversial stock. Nomura has raised its rating up to Neutral from Reduce now that shares have come down to within about 1.5% of a 52-week low.

Dendreon Corp. (DNDN) is hitting 52-week lows as Deutsche Bank has downgraded the maker of Provenge to Sell from Hold. Shares are down 5% at $3.03, against a prior 52-week range of $3.10 to $7.22.

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS) was downgraded to Perform from Outperform after the earnings warning earlier this week. Several other firms already tried to defend the stock after results crushed the stock.

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First Solar Inc. (FSLR) was raised to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James now that shares have pulled back $20 or so from the 2013 highs. Shares are indicated up over 2% as effectively this removes on of the "sell" biases from the pool of analysts. Trina Solar Ltd. (TSL) was also given the same upgrade to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James.

The Gap Inc. (GPS) was reiterated as Underperform with a $40 price target, versus a $42.01 recent close as the higher guidance is actually under most of the consensus estimates.

Gold Fields Ltd. (GFI) was downgraded to Sell from an already cautious Neutral rating at Citigroup after the company is spending $300 million to buy three new mines from Barrick.

ING Groep N.V. (ING) was raised to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley.

Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) was downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James, based on valuation after the stock went over $21 recently. Stifel Nicolaus also downgraded shares to Hold from Buy. These calls are after earnings, and the stock is down about 6% so far on Friday.

Staples Inc. (SPLS) was downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

VMWare Inc. (VMW) was raised to Buy from Hold and the price target was raised to $105 from $86. VMware's consensus price target is about $101, and shares are indicated up about 2% after closing at $85.46.

BMO Capital Markets made a REIT switch in its coverage: It raised Simon Property Group (SPG) to Outperform from Market Perform based on an attractive entry point now that shares are down 20% or so from the highs, and it downgraded General Growth Properties (GGP) to Market Perform from Outperform based on its relative valuation gap having dwindled.

See also: Ten Companies Expected to Double Revenues in the Next Few Years, Five Great Company Stocks Trading Under Book Value and The 10 Best Warren Buffett Stocks to Buy in the Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio

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