Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report released on Monday morning. They currently have $60.00 target price on the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Applied Materials delivered strong fiscal first-quarter results on the back of demand for chips used in electronic items. The company has outperformed the industry it belongs to in the past 12 months. The stock is currently riding on inflection-focused innovation strategy which is its primary growth driver. The company continues to witness technological advancements in semiconductor and display areas. Applied Materials is in a great position to grow sustainably and profitably based on its strong pipeline of enabling technologies, supported by expanding opportunities on the semiconductor and display fronts. 3D NAND, DRAM and patterning have led to significant market share gains. Nevertheless, high fixed cost structure and customer concentration remain concerns.”

Other research analysts also recently issued reports about the company. Deutsche Bank lifted their price objective on Applied Materials from $58.00 to $65.00 and gave the stock a buy rating in a research report on Friday, November 17th. Bank of America boosted their price target on Applied Materials from $65.00 to $76.00 and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Wednesday, November 15th. B. Riley reiterated a buy rating and issued a $63.00 price target on shares of Applied Materials in a report on Monday, November 13th. Royal Bank of Canada reiterated a buy rating on shares of Applied Materials in a report on Friday, October 27th. Finally, Nomura reiterated a buy rating and issued a $65.00 price target (up from $55.00) on shares of Applied Materials in a report on Tuesday, November 21st. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a hold rating, twenty-five have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. Applied Materials currently has a consensus rating of Buy and a consensus target price of $63.88.

Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) opened at $55.03 on Monday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.62, a quick ratio of 2.25 and a current ratio of 2.96. Applied Materials has a 12-month low of $34.72 and a 12-month high of $60.89. The stock has a market capitalization of $57,980.00, a P/E ratio of 15.33, a P/E/G ratio of 1.00 and a beta of 1.72.

Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, February 14th. The manufacturing equipment provider reported $1.06 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.98 by $0.08. Applied Materials had a return on equity of 51.26% and a net margin of 27.14%. The firm had revenue of $4.20 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $4.10 billion. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $0.67 EPS. analysts predict that Applied Materials will post 4.33 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Thursday, June 14th. Stockholders of record on Thursday, May 24th will be issued a dividend of $0.20 per share. This represents a $0.80 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 1.45%. This is an increase from Applied Materials’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.10. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Wednesday, May 23rd. Applied Materials’s dividend payout ratio is presently 11.14%.

Applied Materials announced that its board has approved a share repurchase program on Wednesday, February 14th that permits the company to buyback $6.00 billion in shares. This buyback authorization permits the manufacturing equipment provider to purchase shares of its stock through open market purchases. Stock buyback programs are generally an indication that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

In other news, Director Stephen R. Forrest sold 4,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Wednesday, January 3rd. The stock was sold at an average price of $53.67, for a total transaction of $214,680.00. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this hyperlink. Also, VP Ali Salehpour sold 125,125 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Friday, December 29th. The stock was sold at an average price of $51.47, for a total value of $6,440,183.75. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last 90 days, insiders have sold 312,716 shares of company stock valued at $16,218,746. Insiders own 0.35% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. LeJeune Puetz Investment Counsel LLC purchased a new stake in Applied Materials during the 3rd quarter worth $105,000. Financial Gravity Companies Inc. purchased a new stake in Applied Materials during the 4th quarter worth $110,000. Risk Paradigm Group LLC purchased a new stake in Applied Materials during the 4th quarter worth $110,000. Cerebellum GP LLC purchased a new stake in Applied Materials during the 4th quarter worth $122,000. Finally, First Personal Financial Services boosted its position in Applied Materials by 281.5% during the 3rd quarter. First Personal Financial Services now owns 2,575 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock worth $134,000 after purchasing an additional 1,900 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 79.93% of the company’s stock.

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Applied Materials Company Profile

Applied Materials, Inc provides manufacturing equipment, services and software to the global semiconductor, display and related industries. The Company’s segments are Semiconductor Systems, which includes semiconductor capital equipment for etch, rapid thermal processing, deposition, chemical mechanical planarization, metrology and inspection, wafer packaging, and ion implantation; Applied Global Services, which provides integrated solutions to optimize equipment and fab performance and productivity; Display and Adjacent Markets, which includes products for manufacturing liquid crystal displays, organic light-emitting diodes, upgrades and roll-to-roll Web coating systems and other display technologies for televisions, personal computers, smart phones and other consumer-oriented devices, and Corporate and Other segment, which includes revenues from products, as well as costs of products sold for fabricating solar photovoltaic cells and modules, and certain operating expenses.

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