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Bristol-Myers rises following analyst upgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. rose Monday after a BMO Capital Markets analyst upgraded the stock, saying Bristol-Myers has a promising group of cancer drug.

Analyst Alex Arfaei raised his rating to "Outperform" from "Market Perform" and lifted his price target to $60 per share from $56. Arfaei said expectations for the company have come down, but he said Bristol-Myers has a strong pipeline of drugs that use the immune system to fight cancer. Those include its experimental drug nivolumab.

Nivolumab is part of a new class of drugs called PD-1, or programmed death, therapies. The drugs allow the body's immune system to target hidden tumor cells.

On Wednesday Merck said it formed partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb and two other companies to study a PD-1 therapy called MK-3475 in combination with other drugs. Arfaei said the deal shows that drug companies believe there is a lot of potential in combination drug regimens that target PD-1, and he said Bristol-Myers has the most promising candidates.

New York-based Bristol-Myers' top-selling drugs include the cancer treatment Yervoy, anti-psychotic Abilify and HIV treatment Sustiva.

The company has been studying a combination of Yervoy and nivolumab, but said in January that it wasn't ready to start late-stage trials. Both Yervoy and nivolumab use the immune system to fight cancer.

Bristol-Myers Squibb shares added $1.79, or 3.6 percent, to close at $52.12. The stock is down about 2 percent in 2014.