Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a note issued to investors on Thursday. The brokerage presently has a $64.00 price target on the software giant’s stock. Zacks Investment Research’s price objective suggests a potential upside of 12.06% from the company’s previous close.

According to Zacks, “Microsoft is one of the largest software companies in the world. It is also one of the leading providers of cloud infrastructure and services. The business reorganization and “cloud-first mobile-first” focus are encouraging, but execution and FX risks remain. Additionally, competition is stiff and the company’s dominant position in the PC market continues to be challenged. Meanwhile, estimates have been stable lately ahead of the company's Q1 earnings release. The company has positive record of earnings surprises in recent quarters. Moreover, enterprise strength, the Office 365 subscription model, Azure and promising new products will continue to generate sizeable cash flows with Windows 10 helping maintain consumer share this year and driving enterprise growth in 2016. Additionally, the expansion of Microsoft HoloLens in 6 new markets will improve the company's posiition in the augmented and virtual reality space.”

A number of other brokerages have also weighed in on MSFT. Sanford C. Bernstein set a $68.00 target price on Microsoft Corp. and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research note on Friday, July 15th. Jefferies Group set a $40.00 target price on Microsoft Corp. and gave the stock a “sell” rating in a research note on Tuesday, September 27th. Oppenheimer Holdings Inc. reaffirmed an “outperform” rating and issued a $62.00 target price on shares of Microsoft Corp. in a research note on Friday, July 22nd. Argus reissued a “hold” rating on shares of Microsoft Corp. in a research report on Monday, July 25th. Finally, Canaccord Genuity reissued a “hold” rating and set a $55.00 price objective on shares of Microsoft Corp. in a research report on Wednesday, June 15th. Three investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have given a hold rating and twenty-one have assigned a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company currently has an average rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $59.55.

Analyst Recommendations for Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) opened at 57.11 on Thursday. The company has a market capitalization of $445.03 billion, a PE ratio of 27.20 and a beta of 1.09. The stock’s 50 day moving average is $57.45 and its 200 day moving average is $54.41. Microsoft Corp. has a one year low of $46.53 and a one year high of $58.70.

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) last released its quarterly earnings data on Tuesday, July 19th. The software giant reported $0.69 EPS for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.58 by $0.11. Microsoft Corp. had a return on equity of 29.38% and a net margin of 19.33%. The business had revenue of $22.60 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $22.15 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the firm posted $0.60 EPS. On average, analysts anticipate that Microsoft Corp. will post $2.89 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, December 8th. Stockholders of record on Thursday, November 17th will be given a $0.39 dividend. This is an increase from Microsoft Corp.’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.36. This represents a $1.56 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 2.73%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Tuesday, November 15th. Microsoft Corp.’s dividend payout ratio is currently 70.24%.

In other Microsoft Corp. news, Director William H. Gates III sold 2,500,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Thursday, July 21st. The stock was sold at an average price of $55.94, for a total transaction of $139,850,000.00. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this link. Also, CEO Satya Nadella sold 143,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, August 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $57.97, for a total value of $8,289,710.00. Following the sale, the chief executive officer now owns 1,200,822 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $69,611,651.34. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. 3.76% of the stock is owned by corporate insiders.

Large investors have recently bought and sold shares of the stock. Northstar Group Inc. increased its position in shares of Microsoft Corp. by 0.4% in the second quarter. Northstar Group Inc. now owns 3,953 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $202,000 after buying an additional 14 shares in the last quarter. McQueen Ball & Associates Inc. increased its position in shares of Microsoft Corp. by 0.3% in the first quarter. McQueen Ball & Associates Inc. now owns 8,429 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $466,000 after buying an additional 25 shares in the last quarter. Palisade Capital Management LLC NJ increased its position in shares of Microsoft Corp. by 0.4% in the first quarter. Palisade Capital Management LLC NJ now owns 6,744 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $372,000 after buying an additional 27 shares in the last quarter. Capstone Financial Advisors Inc. increased its position in shares of Microsoft Corp. by 0.5% in the second quarter. Capstone Financial Advisors Inc. now owns 7,512 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $384,000 after buying an additional 40 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Lowe fs LLC increased its position in shares of Microsoft Corp. by 1.4% in the second quarter. Lowe fs LLC now owns 3,206 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $164,000 after buying an additional 44 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 71.58% of the company’s stock.

Microsoft Corp. Company Profile

Microsoft Corporation is a technology company. The Company develops, licenses and supports a range of software products, services and devices. Its segments are Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing. Its 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.

5 Day Chart for NASDAQ:MSFT

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