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13 stocks with over-the-moon price targets

Everyone can use a good goal to shoot for. And there's nothing wrong with shooting for the moon. But some Wall Street analysts are giving stocks lofty targets that blur the line between ambitious and astronomical.

There are 13 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500, including drugmaker Merck, cosmetics company Avon and retailer Michael Kors that have at least one analyst with a price target that's 60% or higher than the current stock price, says a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

Nick M. Do | E+ | Getty Images

It's very important to note this analysis is based on the absolutely highest recorded price targets — not the average ones, which are two completely different things. Price targets are based on where analysts see the stock headed up to 18 months from now.

Read More Chipotle tops Street forecasts; stock jumps

The topic of the highest price target has become relevant again, as stocks blast past or rapidly approach their average targets thanks to the raging bull market. It's up to investors to decide if these extreme upside targets are prescient, or a sign of the top.Chipotle on Tuesday gained $69.44 to $659.77, putting it in striking distance of the analysts' average price target of $667. That's why investors are now focused on the highest price target of $800 a share set Tuesday by David Tarantino of T.W. Baird.

But Chipotle is far from being the stock with the highest-of-the-high price targets compared to the current price.

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Take the example of Merck. The highest price target on the stock is $125 a share, which is a staggering 114% upside from the Tuesday closing price of $58.43. That high per-share price target is quite a bit higher than the average, which is sitting at a significantly less lofty $64.47.

Another case in point is red-hot retailer Michael Kors. The highest price target is $134 a share, which is 63% higher than the Tuesday close of $82.22. But as high as that might be, it's not all that far from the average price target of $107.50 a share.

Read More Has the Michael Kors bubble burst?

Below is the list of 13 companies that have the highest-of-the-high-price targets, relative to the current prices (average price targets are included reference):

Company
Symbol
% upside to high target
Average target
Tues. close
Chesapeake Energy CHK 150% $33.62 $26.85
Merck MRK 114% $64.47 $58.43
Peabody Energy BTU 98% $20.62 $15.18
Avon AVP 81% $16.21 $13.84
ADT ADT 78% $39.71 $33.16
Tesoro TSO 73% $67.25 $57.98
Wynn Resorts WYNN 69% $245.70 $207.29
Denbury Resources DNR 66% $21.10 $17.47
Intuitive Surgical ISRG 66% $461.06 $392.16
Michael Kors KORS 63% $107.50 $82.22
PVH PVH 63% $145.90 $110.80
Urban Outfitters URBN 63% $42 $33.84
Range Resources RRC 61% $101.10 $76.57
Sources: S&P Capital IQ, USA TODAY research

Some investors might be interested to see which stocks have the absolute highest-of-the-high-price targets (not relative to the current stock prices). You don't have to look far to see Chipotle's famous $800-a-share high target. Not surprisingly, these are the companies with the highest current stock prices, including:

Company
Symbol
High stock target
Tues. close
Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A $225,000 $192,640
Priceline PCLN $1,592 $1,230.66
Chipotle Mexican CMG $800 $659.77
Google GOOGL $750 $603.57
Graham Holdings GHC $695 $694.82
Sources: S&P Capital IQ, USA TODAY research

Great expectations are fantastic if the stocks can keep up. But investors expecting the moon might be disappointed if they get anything less than that.

-- By Matt Krantz of USA Today

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