Ashland Inc. (NYSE:ASH) shares gapped up before the market opened on Thursday . The stock had previously closed at $112.73, but opened at $112.95. Ashland shares last traded at $114.41, with a volume of 93,865 shares.

Several brokerages have commented on ASH. Zacks Investment Research downgraded Ashland from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research note on Monday, April 18th. Jefferies Group reissued a “buy” rating on shares of Ashland in a research note on Wednesday. Credit Suisse Group AG began coverage on Ashland in a research note on Thursday, March 24th. They set an “outperform” rating and a $118.00 target price for the company. Finally, TheStreet raised Ashland from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Tuesday, March 15th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, six have given a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the company. The company currently has an average rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $125.63.

The firm’s 50 day moving average price is $114.17 and its 200-day moving average price is $106.03. The stock has a market capitalization of $7.09 billion and a price-to-earnings ratio of 33.22.

Ashland (NYSE:ASH) last issued its earnings results on Wednesday, April 27th. The company reported $1.83 EPS for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $1.74 by $0.09. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business earned $2.03 EPS. The company earned $1.25 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.25 billion. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was down 7.6% compared to the same quarter last year. On average, analysts forecast that Ashland Inc. will post $7.13 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, June 15th. Shareholders of record on Friday, June 3rd were paid a $0.39 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Wednesday, June 1st. This represents a $1.56 annualized dividend and a yield of 1.37%.

In other Ashland news, CFO J Kevin Willis sold 1,183 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, May 4th. The stock was sold at an average price of $110.99, for a total value of $131,301.17. Following the completion of the transaction, the chief financial officer now owns 11,240 shares in the company, valued at approximately $1,247,527.60. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website.

Other hedge funds and institutional investors recently modified their holdings of the company. Liberty Mutual Group Asset Management Inc. increased its position in shares of Ashland by 42.6% in the fourth quarter. Liberty Mutual Group Asset Management Inc. now owns 41,084 shares of the company’s stock valued at $4,220,000 after buying an additional 12,283 shares in the last quarter. Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. Ltd. increased its stake in shares of Ashland by 0.9% in the fourth quarter. Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. Ltd. now owns 94,028 shares of the company’s stock worth $9,792,000 after buying an additional 818 shares during the period. Gabelli Funds LLC increased its stake in shares of Ashland by 8.2% in the fourth quarter. Gabelli Funds LLC now owns 151,700 shares of the company’s stock worth $15,580,000 after buying an additional 11,500 shares during the period. Gamco Investors INC. ET AL increased its stake in shares of Ashland by 21.9% in the fourth quarter. Gamco Investors INC. ET AL now owns 121,283 shares of the company’s stock worth $12,456,000 after buying an additional 21,800 shares during the period. Finally, Teacher Retirement System of Texas increased its stake in shares of Ashland by 14.8% in the fourth quarter. Teacher Retirement System of Texas now owns 188,439 shares of the company’s stock worth $19,353,000 after buying an additional 24,335 shares during the period.

Ashland Inc is engaged in specialty chemicals, and through Valvoline, is a consumer-branded lubricant supplier. The Company operates in three segments: Ashland Specialty Ingredients (Specialty Ingredients), Ashland Performance Materials (Performance Materials) and Valvoline. Its Specialty Ingredients segment is engaged in providing cellulose ethers, vinyl pyrrolidones and biofunctionals, and consists of two divisions: Consumer Specialties and Industrial Specialties.

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