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Best Buy gets JPMorgan upgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- A JPMorgan analyst upgraded Best Buy to "Overweight" on Monday, saying the struggling electronics retailer's effort to turn around is starting to pay off.

THE BACKGROUND: Best Buy has been working to improve sales and profit as it faces tough competition from online retailers and discounters. The company, led by turnaround expert Herbert Joly since August, has cut jobs, invested in training employees and started matching online prices. And its financial results show that the changes are beginning to help.

Earlier this month the company reported that sales in stores open at least 14 months rose 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the best performance in 11 quarters. That is a key measure of a retailer's health, because it excludes stores that recently opened or closed. Adjusted earnings and sales topped Wall Street's expectations.

THE OPINION: JPMorgan analyst Chris Horvers said in a note to investors that the company has the right management, including Joly and CFO Sharon McCollam in place to drive "self-help" financial improvement. He added that there is a high correlation of TV and appliance sales to the direction of the housing market, which is recovering after a prolonged slump. Finally, the company is starting to show signs that it is fighting back on prices and product assortment against Amazon.com.

The upgrade follow's Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Keith's upgrade on March 11. He raised his rating for Best Buy to "Overweight" from "Neutral" for much the same reasons as Horvers.

THE SHARES: Best Buy shares rose 71 cents. Or 3.3 percent, to $22.16 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded between $11.20 and $27.95 over the past 52 weeks.

After losing about half their value in 2012, Best Buy shares have gained about 81 percent since the start of this year.