Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) from a hold rating to a strong-buy rating in a report published on Friday. The firm currently has $59.00 price objective on the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Applied Materials 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. Year to date, the stock has outperformed the industry it belongs to.”

AMAT has been the topic of a number of other reports. Wells Fargo & Company started coverage on Applied Materials in a research report on Tuesday, December 5th. They set an outperform rating and a $65.00 price target on the stock. Credit Suisse Group restated a buy rating on shares of Applied Materials in a research report on Tuesday, August 29th. Goldman Sachs Group upgraded Applied Materials from a neutral rating to a buy rating and increased their price target for the stock from $49.00 to $52.00 in a research report on Wednesday, September 13th. Morgan Stanley restated an overweight rating on shares of Applied Materials in a research report on Thursday, September 14th. Finally, Bank of America increased their price target on Applied Materials from $65.00 to $76.00 and gave the stock a buy rating in a research report on Wednesday, November 15th. Two investment analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, twenty-four have assigned a buy rating and one has given a strong buy rating to the stock. The stock has a consensus rating of Buy and an average target price of $60.95.

Shares of Applied Materials (NASDAQ AMAT) opened at $53.40 on Friday. The company has a market capitalization of $56,033.23, a P/E ratio of 16.17, a P/E/G ratio of 1.03 and a beta of 1.80. Applied Materials has a 12-month low of $31.66 and a 12-month high of $60.89. The company has a current ratio of 3.14, a quick ratio of 2.43 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.57.

Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, November 16th. The manufacturing equipment provider reported $0.93 EPS for the quarter, topping the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.91 by $0.02. The business had revenue of $3.97 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $3.93 billion. Applied Materials had a return on equity of 41.51% and a net margin of 23.62%. Applied Materials’s revenue for the quarter was up 20.4% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the company earned $0.66 EPS. analysts anticipate that Applied Materials will post 4.04 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Wednesday, March 14th. Investors of record on Wednesday, February 21st will be paid a dividend of $0.10 per share. This represents a $0.40 annualized dividend and a yield of 0.75%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Tuesday, February 20th. Applied Materials’s payout ratio is presently 12.62%.

In related news, VP Thomas F. Larkins sold 30,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Thursday, October 5th. The stock was sold at an average price of $51.24, for a total transaction of $1,537,200.00. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available at this hyperlink. Also, Director Stephen R. Forrest sold 5,000 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction on Friday, November 24th. The stock was sold at an average price of $58.00, for a total value of $290,000.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 0.31% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors have recently modified their holdings of the stock. Bessemer Group Inc. raised its stake in shares of Applied Materials by 145.4% in the 2nd quarter. Bessemer Group Inc. now owns 3,067 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock valued at $126,000 after purchasing an additional 1,817 shares during the period. Pitcairn Co. raised its stake in shares of Applied Materials by 6.7% in the 2nd quarter. Pitcairn Co. now owns 31,236 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock valued at $1,290,000 after purchasing an additional 1,970 shares during the period. Advisors Asset Management Inc. raised its stake in shares of Applied Materials by 28.2% in the 2nd quarter. Advisors Asset Management Inc. now owns 48,432 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock valued at $2,001,000 after purchasing an additional 10,643 shares during the period. Gargoyle Investment Advisor L.L.C. raised its stake in shares of Applied Materials by 6.3% in the 2nd quarter. Gargoyle Investment Advisor L.L.C. now owns 45,700 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock valued at $1,888,000 after purchasing an additional 2,700 shares during the period. Finally, Dupont Capital Management Corp raised its stake in shares of Applied Materials by 0.8% in the 2nd quarter. Dupont Capital Management Corp now owns 459,664 shares of the manufacturing equipment provider’s stock valued at $18,989,000 after purchasing an additional 3,508 shares during the period. 79.15% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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