BEST OF THE BROKERS

AVIVA
JP Morgan Cazenove (JPM) rates the insurer “overweight” with a 524p target price. The broker expects continued momentum when the firm reports its full-year earnings on 3 March and hopes Aviva will focus on highlighting its upside risks to investors. JPM expects a 23 per cent earnings rise in 2010, with a six per cent dividend hike to 25.4p. However, it has downgraded its operating profit forecast by 2.5 per cent to £2.494bn.

SMITH & NEPHEW
Goldman Sachs rates the medical firm “buy” and has lifted its target price by 10p to 865p. The broker has raised its earnings estimates by one to two per cent after signs of market share gains in hip and knee replacements. Goldman believes Smith & Nephew has better exposure to the under-65s patient population than its rivals and expects above-market growth in trauma.

ASTRAZENECA
Evolution Securities rates the pharma group “sell” and has dropped its target price by 200p to £26.50 after removing US sales of blood-thinning drug Brilinta from its forecasts ahead of what it believes is a likely setback for regulatory approval. Evo thinks the roadblock for Brilinta is especially important for AZ, which has the most to lose from its looming patent expiries than any other European large cap pharma stocks.