Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report released on Wednesday morning. Zacks Investment Research currently has $99.00 price target on the software giant’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Microsoft, a software company, have outperformed the industry it belongs to over the past one year. The company is dealing with the recent security bug which poses a huge risk for users.  In this context, it is rolling out patches to fix Windows kernels in order to address the vulnerability. Additionally, Microsoft’s recent blockchain deals with Hapoalim and Accenture and its Coco framework are tailwinds. We expect rapid adoption of Azure and Office 365 to remain the key catalysts in the near future. We believe that collaborations with the likes of Amazon, Red Hat, Symantec, Cray and PAREXEL are positive for the company's growth prospects. We also believe that Microsoft’s strategic initiatives to enter the augmented reality and virtual reality market with the acquisition of Altspace VR and launch of mixed reality headsets will be positives. However, intense competition from Sony’s PS4 is a headwind.”

A number of other brokerages also recently commented on MSFT. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated an outperform rating and issued a $88.00 price objective (up previously from $85.00) on shares of Microsoft in a research report on Friday, October 27th. UBS Group set a $105.00 target price on Microsoft and gave the stock a buy rating in a research report on Thursday, November 9th. Vetr downgraded Microsoft from a strong-buy rating to a buy rating and set a $93.77 target price for the company. in a research report on Monday, December 11th. KeyCorp restated a buy rating and set a $94.00 target price on shares of Microsoft in a research report on Friday, October 27th. Finally, Citigroup raised their target price on Microsoft from $74.00 to $79.00 and gave the stock a sell rating in a research report on Friday, October 27th. Two analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have issued a hold rating and thirty have assigned a buy rating to the stock. Microsoft currently has an average rating of Buy and a consensus price target of $88.32.

Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ MSFT) opened at $90.00 on Wednesday. The company has a quick ratio of 3.06, a current ratio of 3.12 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.91. Microsoft has a 52-week low of $62.37 and a 52-week high of $90.79. The company has a market capitalization of $694,313.06, a P/E ratio of 30.61, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.11 and a beta of 0.99.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, October 26th. The software giant reported $0.84 EPS for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.72 by $0.12. Microsoft had a return on equity of 35.23% and a net margin of 24.56%. The company had revenue of $24.50 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $23.57 billion. During the same quarter last year, the company earned $0.76 EPS. The company’s quarterly revenue was up 11.7% on a year-over-year basis. sell-side analysts expect that Microsoft will post 3.39 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, March 8th. Shareholders of record on Thursday, February 15th will be given a $0.42 dividend. The ex-dividend date is Wednesday, February 14th. This represents a $1.68 annualized dividend and a yield of 1.87%. Microsoft’s payout ratio is 57.14%.

In other news, EVP Christopher C. Capossela sold 4,000 shares of Microsoft stock in a transaction on Friday, November 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $83.46, for a total value of $333,840.00. Following the completion of the sale, the executive vice president now directly owns 189,278 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $15,797,141.88. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link. Also, insider Frank H. Brod sold 15,000 shares of Microsoft stock in a transaction on Thursday, November 2nd. The shares were sold at an average price of $84.08, for a total value of $1,261,200.00. Following the completion of the sale, the insider now directly owns 116,205 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $9,770,516.40. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last quarter, insiders sold 45,000 shares of company stock valued at $3,759,420. Corporate insiders own 1.49% of the company’s stock.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in MSFT. Appropriate Balance Financial Services Inc. grew its stake in shares of Microsoft by 4.7% during the second quarter. Appropriate Balance Financial Services Inc. now owns 643 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $9,331,000 after purchasing an additional 29 shares during the period. Acrospire Investment Management LLC grew its stake in shares of Microsoft by 300.0% during the second quarter. Acrospire Investment Management LLC now owns 1,600 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $110,000 after purchasing an additional 1,200 shares during the period. Stelac Advisory Services LLC grew its stake in shares of Microsoft by 23.5% during the second quarter. Stelac Advisory Services LLC now owns 2,033 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $140,000 after purchasing an additional 387 shares during the period. Family Capital Trust Co acquired a new stake in shares of Microsoft during the fourth quarter worth $188,000. Finally, Moller Financial Services acquired a new stake in shares of Microsoft during the fourth quarter worth $205,000. 73.19% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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About Microsoft

Microsoft Corporation is a technology company. The Company develops, licenses, and supports a range of software products, services and devices. The Company’s segments include Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud and More Personal Computing. The Company’s products include operating systems; cross-device productivity applications; server applications; business solution applications; desktop and server management tools; software development tools; video games, and training and certification of computer system integrators and developers.

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