<strong>ALLIANZ</strong><strong></strong><br />Nomura upgraded Allianz to “neutral” for two reasons: first, the end of the deterioration in property and casualty underwriting as shown in the firm’s third-quarter results and, second, the broker’s reduced concern over Allianz’s exposure to litigation in its US life business. But the stock is still not one of Nomura’s top picks as it expects competitive pressures from strong French and German insurers to lead further erosion of underwriting profitability.<br /><br /><strong>MOTHERCARE</strong><br />Altium Securities upgraded its recommendation on Mothercare to “hold” ahead of the retailer’s interims next week. The broker is expecting an improvement in pre-tax profit to £12m. However, the broker believes that a like-for-like sales increase will be offset by a gross margin decline and some increase in expenses to reflect higher pension costs and share-based expenses. It added that an update on property strategy may lead to forecast upgrades.<br /><br /><strong>BARCLAYS</strong><br />Royal Bank of Scotland downgraded Barclays to “hold” from “buy”, saying that it believes that this year’s trend of increased franchise earnings power has come to an end. The broker said that investor attention could now revert to less compelling balance sheet (funding, liquidity and capital) and mix issues, and that it recommends that investors switch to Lloyds Banking Group. It lowered its price target from 400p to 360p.