THQ shares climb after upgrade

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NEW YORK -- Shares of THQ Inc. climbed Thursday after an analyst upgraded the video game publisher ahead of the launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 in Europe and a "big slate" of movie-based titles set for release this summer.

American Technology Research analyst Paul-Jon McNealy lifted his rating on the publisher of games such as "Cars" (after the movie) and "WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007" to "Buy" from "Neutral."

McNealy had downgraded the company last October following a 60% increase in its stock price over four months.

"We wrote at the time of the downgrade that there had to be a change in valuation or a change in fundamentals for an upgrade, and we believe both have happened," the analyst wrote in a note to investors. He boosted his target price to $41 from $32.50.

McNealy likes THQ's Pixar slate, which includes "Ratatouille" and a sequel to the popular "Cars" game, which is being released even though there is no movie sequel.

The company's Nickelodeon franchise, he added, is moving onto Nintendo's Wii console. "While the Wii has broadening demographic appeal," he said, "the core Wii gamer in kids is a good fit with THQI's Nick titles."

Shares of Agoura Hills, Calif.-based THQ climbed 72 cents, or 2.3%, to $32.46 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has traded between $18.96 and $35.15.

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