Morgan Stanley reissued their buy rating on shares of Microsoft Co. (NASDAQ:MSFT) in a research note released on Thursday morning. They currently have a $72.00 price objective on the software giant’s stock.

A number of other brokerages also recently issued reports on MSFT. Wells Fargo & Co started coverage on Microsoft in a research note on Wednesday, January 11th. They issued an outperform rating for the company. Goldman Sachs Group Inc reissued a buy rating and set a $72.00 price objective (up from $68.00) on shares of Microsoft in a research report on Friday, January 27th. Raymond James Financial, Inc. reissued a strong-buy rating on shares of Microsoft in a research report on Friday, March 17th. Royal Bank of Canada raised their price objective on Microsoft from $65.00 to $71.00 and gave the stock an outperform rating in a research report on Friday, January 27th. Finally, Cowen and Company reissued an outperform rating and set a $70.00 price objective on shares of Microsoft in a research report on Thursday, March 16th. Three investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, nine have given a hold rating, twenty-three have assigned a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. Microsoft currently has an average rating of Buy and an average target price of $67.28.

Analyst Recommendations for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) traded up 1.397% during trading on Thursday, reaching $66.415. 23,384,966 shares of the company’s stock traded hands. Microsoft has a one year low of $48.04 and a one year high of $66.70. The company has a 50 day moving average price of $65.07 and a 200-day moving average price of $62.42. The stock has a market cap of $513.22 billion, a P/E ratio of 31.254 and a beta of 1.08.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) last issued its earnings results on Thursday, January 26th. The software giant reported $0.83 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.79 by $0.04. Microsoft had a return on equity of 32.12% and a net margin of 19.57%. The business earned $26.07 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $25.13 billion. During the same period last year, the company earned $0.78 EPS. The company’s revenue for the quarter was up 1.5% on a year-over-year basis. On average, equities research analysts expect that Microsoft will post $2.97 EPS for the current fiscal year.

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The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, June 8th. Investors of record on Thursday, May 18th will be issued a dividend of $0.39 per share. This represents a $1.56 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.38%. The ex-dividend date is Tuesday, May 16th. Microsoft’s dividend payout ratio is presently 73.59%.

In related news, Director William H. Gates III sold 2,000,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Monday, January 30th. The stock was sold at an average price of $65.11, for a total transaction of $130,220,000.00. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available at this link. Also, insider G Mason Morfit sold 11,000,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Friday, February 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $63.32, for a total value of $696,520,000.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Insiders have sold 19,623,500 shares of company stock worth $1,253,600,525 in the last ninety days. 2.99% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the company. Norges Bank purchased a new stake in Microsoft during the fourth quarter worth approximately $4,334,099,000. Dodge & Cox purchased a new stake in Microsoft during the fourth quarter worth approximately $2,658,504,000. FMR LLC increased its stake in Microsoft by 11.0% in the fourth quarter. FMR LLC now owns 177,344,854 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $11,020,210,000 after buying an additional 17,606,133 shares during the last quarter. Asset Management One Co. Ltd. increased its stake in Microsoft by 791.3% in the fourth quarter. Asset Management One Co. Ltd. now owns 13,263,687 shares of the software giant’s stock worth $825,108,000 after buying an additional 11,775,547 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Russell Investments Group Ltd. purchased a new stake in Microsoft during the fourth quarter worth approximately $686,993,000. 72.29% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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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