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

A number of research firms recently commented on MO. Stifel Nicolaus decreased their price target on Altria Group from $78.00 to $65.00 and set a “buy” rating on the stock in a research report on Friday, July 27th. ValuEngine upgraded Altria Group from a “strong sell” rating to a “sell” rating in a research report on Wednesday, August 15th. Morgan Stanley decreased their price target on Altria Group from $65.00 to $63.00 and set an “equal weight” rating on the stock in a research report on Tuesday, June 26th. Bank of America set a $70.00 price target on Altria Group and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research report on Thursday. Finally, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Altria Group from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Thursday, May 31st. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, six have given a hold rating, ten have assigned a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company. The stock currently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus target price of $70.95.

The company has a quick ratio of 0.31, a current ratio of 0.65 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.83. The firm has a market capitalization of $119.58 billion, a PE ratio of 18.18, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.80 and a beta of 0.62.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) last posted its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, July 26th. The company reported $1.01 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the 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 firm had revenue of $4.88 billion for the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $5.02 billion. During the same quarter in the prior year, the business earned $0.85 EPS. The business’s revenue for the quarter was down 3.7% compared to the same quarter last year. equities research analysts predict that Altria Group Inc will post 4 earnings per share for the current year.

The company also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, October 10th. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 14th will be issued a dividend of $0.80 per share. This is an increase from Altria Group’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.70. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Thursday, September 13th. This represents a $3.20 annualized dividend and a yield of 5.21%. Altria Group’s dividend payout ratio is currently 82.84%.

Altria Group declared that its board has initiated a stock repurchase program on Thursday, May 17th that permits the company to buyback $1.00 billion in outstanding shares. This buyback authorization permits the company to buy up to 1% of its shares through open market purchases. Shares buyback programs are often an indication that the company’s board believes its shares are undervalued.

In other news, Director Dinyar S. Devitre sold 3,165 shares of the stock in a transaction 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 filing with the SEC, which is accessible through the SEC website. 0.11% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Several hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of the company. SP Asset Management acquired a new position in shares of Altria Group in the 2nd quarter valued at $409,000. HRT Financial LLC acquired a new position in shares of Altria Group in the 2nd quarter valued at $237,000. Truvestments Capital LLC acquired a new position in shares of Altria Group in the 2nd quarter valued at $1,208,000. BDO Wealth Advisors LLC lifted its stake in shares of Altria Group by 165.5% in the 2nd quarter. BDO Wealth Advisors LLC now owns 2,222 shares of the company’s stock valued at $126,000 after purchasing an additional 1,385 shares during the period. Finally, Schroder Investment Management Group lifted its stake in shares of Altria Group by 12.5% in the 2nd quarter. Schroder Investment Management Group now owns 3,054,497 shares of the company’s stock valued at $174,992,000 after purchasing an additional 338,448 shares during the period. 63.27% of the stock is currently 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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