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Ahead of the Bell: Exxon Mobil upgraded

NEW YORK (AP) -- Raymond James upgraded Exxon Mobil on Friday, citing its potential to navigate a risk-averse energy market in 2014.

Analyst Pavel Molchanov raised his rating to "Strong Buy" from "Outperform," noting that Exxon Mobil shares have traded slightly lower in 2013 and missed out on gains in the energy sector and the broader market. The Irving, Texas, oil giant has reduced its quarterly stock repurchase twice this year and Molchanov said that has also hurt Exxon Mobil's shares.

Exxon Mobil shares tend to do better when markets are risk averse, said Molchanov, and he thinks investors in the energy sector will look for safer bets in 2014. He maintained a price target of $98 per share.

Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. picked up 63 cents to $86.13 in premarket trading. The stock is trading near annual lows and it is down 10.2 percent since July 23, when it set an all-time high with a closing price of $95.20.