Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) shares rose 6.7% during mid-day trading on Wednesday . The company traded as high as $64.04 and last traded at $63.43. Approximately 18,087,400 shares changed hands during trading, an increase of 129% from the average daily volume of 7,883,744 shares. The stock had previously closed at $59.47.

Several research analysts recently commented on MO shares. Jefferies Financial Group set a $70.00 price target on Altria Group and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Friday, June 1st. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $75.00 price target on Altria Group and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research report on Monday, July 23rd. Consumer Edge started coverage on Altria Group in a research report on Monday, June 11th. They set an “equal weight” rating and a $69.31 price target for the company. Zacks Investment Research raised Altria Group from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Thursday, May 31st. Finally, Morgan Stanley reduced their price target on Altria Group from $65.00 to $63.00 and set an “equal weight” rating for the company in a research report on Tuesday, June 26th. One investment analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, six have assigned a hold rating, nine have assigned a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. The company currently has an average rating of “Buy” and a consensus target price of $71.01.

The stock has a market cap of $114.86 billion, a PE ratio of 18.23, a P/E/G ratio of 1.73 and a beta of 0.62. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.83, a current ratio of 0.65 and a quick ratio of 0.31.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last released its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, July 26th. The company reported $1.01 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $1.00 by $0.01. Altria Group had a return on equity of 48.88% and a net margin of 42.00%. The company had revenue of $4.88 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $5.02 billion. During the same period last year, the firm posted $0.85 earnings per share. The business’s revenue was down 3.7% on a year-over-year basis. equities research analysts predict that Altria Group Inc will post 4 EPS for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, October 10th. Stockholders of record on Friday, September 14th will be given a $0.80 dividend. This represents a $3.20 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 5.04%. This is a boost from Altria Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.70. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, September 13th. Altria Group’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is presently 82.84%.

Altria Group announced that its board has initiated a share buyback plan on Thursday, May 17th that allows the company to repurchase $1.00 billion in shares. This repurchase authorization allows the company to repurchase up to 1% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares repurchase plans are usually an indication that the company’s leadership believes its stock is undervalued.

In other news, Director Dinyar S. Devitre sold 3,165 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, August 29th. The stock was sold at an average price of $58.44, for a total value of $184,962.60. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available through this hyperlink. Company insiders own 0.11% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors and hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. IMA Wealth Inc. bought a new position in shares of Altria Group during the second quarter worth approximately $106,000. BerganKDV Wealth Management LLC bought a new position in shares of Altria Group during the second quarter worth approximately $123,000. BDO Wealth Advisors LLC increased its stake in shares of Altria Group by 165.5% during the second quarter. BDO Wealth Advisors LLC now owns 2,222 shares of the company’s stock worth $126,000 after purchasing an additional 1,385 shares during the period. Landaas & Co. WI ADV bought a new position in shares of Altria Group during the second quarter worth approximately $137,000. Finally, New England Asset Management Inc. bought a new position in shares of Altria Group during the second quarter worth approximately $138,000. 63.27% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

About Altria Group (NYSE:MO)

Altria Group, Inc, through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States. It offers cigarettes primarily under the Marlboro brand; cigars principally under the Black & Mild brand; and moist smokeless tobacco products under the Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Seal, and Husky brands.

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