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Drugmaker AbbVie rises following analyst upgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of drugmaker AbbVie Inc. rose to its highest point Monday after a Morgan Stanley analyst upgraded the stock, expecting greater sales of the Chicago company's blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Humira and several experimental products.

THE SPARK: Analyst David Risinger upgraded the stock to "Overweight" from "Equal-weight" and raised his price target to $49 per share from $36. Risinger said he now thinks competing drugs and generic versions of Humira will not hurt the company's sales as much as he originally expected, and he raised his 2020 sales estimate by $1.2 billion. He also expects better sales of hepatitis C drugs and other experimental products.

Risinger said he thinks AbbVie shares will trade higher as the company continues to report progress for its drugs in clinical development.

THE BIG PICTURE: AbbVie was spun off from Abbott Laboratories on Jan. 1. It markets the brand-name prescription drugs that belonged to Abbott, including Humira, a treatment for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn's Disease. Sales of Humira grew 17 percent to $9.27 billion in 2012.

The company's experimental products include the multiple sclerosis treatment daclizumab, multiple myeloma drug elotuzumab, veliparib for breast cancer, ABT-126 for Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia, and Elagolix, a treatment for endometriosis, or excessive growth of the uterine lining, and for uterine fibroids, or benign growths in the uterus.

SHARE ACTION: AbbVie shares gained $2.30 or 5.4 percent, to $44.69 in afternoon trading. Earlier, the stock peaked at $44.58. The stock is up more than 25 percent since Feb. 13, just before the company reported results from a late-stage trial of Humira as a treatment for Crohn's disease in children.