Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report released on Friday morning. The brokerage currently has $347.00 price objective on the aerospace company’s stock.

According to Zacks, “As one of the major U.S. defense contractors, Northrop continues to enjoy strong presence in Air Force, Space & Cyber Security programs. The company maintains a strong balance sheet and steady cash flow that offer substantial financial flexibility. Also, recent budgetary amendments made by the Trump administration have been in favor of defense biggies like Northrop. During the third quarter, the company’s investments included capital expenditures of $650 million, up 6.9% annually. With the acquisition of Orbital ATK, Northrop will benefit from the former's rocket motors, missiles and electro-optical countermeasure product lines. However, higher operating expenses tend to drag down Northrop's profit margin.”

NOC has been the topic of a number of other reports. Bank of America set a $350.00 price objective on Northrop Grumman and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Friday, October 27th. Royal Bank of Canada set a $374.00 price objective on Northrop Grumman and gave the company a buy rating in a report on Thursday, November 16th. Cowen reaffirmed a hold rating and set a $300.00 target price (up from $275.00) on shares of Northrop Grumman in a report on Thursday, October 26th. Stifel Nicolaus raised their target price on Northrop Grumman from $255.00 to $300.00 and gave the stock a hold rating in a report on Friday, October 27th. Finally, ValuEngine raised Northrop Grumman from a hold rating to a buy rating in a report on Sunday, December 31st. Five equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and fourteen have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has a consensus rating of Buy and an average price target of $302.21.

Shares of Northrop Grumman (NYSE NOC) traded up $1.99 during mid-day trading on Friday, hitting $317.14. The stock had a trading volume of 255,627 shares, compared to its average volume of 691,878. The company has a quick ratio of 1.05, a current ratio of 1.21 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.96. The firm has a market capitalization of $55,340.00, a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.63, a PEG ratio of 2.85 and a beta of 0.69. Northrop Grumman has a fifty-two week low of $223.88 and a fifty-two week high of $315.71.

Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, October 25th. The aerospace company reported $3.68 earnings per share for the quarter, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of $2.92 by $0.76. The business had revenue of $6.53 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $6.33 billion. Northrop Grumman had a return on equity of 39.76% and a net margin of 9.24%. The company’s revenue was up 6.0% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the company earned $3.35 earnings per share. equities analysts expect that Northrop Grumman will post 13.19 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently disclosed a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, December 20th. Shareholders of record on Monday, December 4th were issued a $1.00 dividend. This represents a $4.00 annualized dividend and a yield of 1.26%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, December 1st. Northrop Grumman’s payout ratio is currently 29.81%.

In other Northrop Grumman news, VP Denise M. Peppard sold 5,037 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, November 1st. The stock was sold at an average price of $295.67, for a total value of $1,489,289.79. Following the sale, the vice president now directly owns 58,186 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $17,203,854.62. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, VP Denise M. Peppard sold 2,328 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, November 6th. The shares were sold at an average price of $300.86, for a total value of $700,402.08. Following the completion of the sale, the vice president now directly owns 28,553 shares in the company, valued at $8,590,455.58. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last three months, insiders sold 21,417 shares of company stock worth $6,365,189. 0.70% of the stock is owned by corporate insiders.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Starfire Investment Advisers Inc. purchased a new position in shares of Northrop Grumman in the fourth quarter valued at approximately $279,000. Appleton Partners Inc. MA lifted its position in shares of Northrop Grumman by 7.3% in the fourth quarter. Appleton Partners Inc. MA now owns 4,242 shares of the aerospace company’s stock valued at $1,302,000 after acquiring an additional 289 shares in the last quarter. CHURCHILL MANAGEMENT Corp lifted its position in shares of Northrop Grumman by 5.3% in the fourth quarter. CHURCHILL MANAGEMENT Corp now owns 23,057 shares of the aerospace company’s stock valued at $7,076,000 after acquiring an additional 1,154 shares in the last quarter. Prudential Financial Inc. lifted its position in shares of Northrop Grumman by 4.0% in the third quarter. Prudential Financial Inc. now owns 648,741 shares of the aerospace company’s stock valued at $186,657,000 after acquiring an additional 25,075 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Atlantic Trust Group LLC lifted its position in shares of Northrop Grumman by 11.7% in the third quarter. Atlantic Trust Group LLC now owns 14,433 shares of the aerospace company’s stock valued at $4,153,000 after acquiring an additional 1,506 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 81.22% of the company’s stock.

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Northrop Grumman Company Profile

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global security company. The Company provides products, systems and solutions in autonomous systems; cyber; command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR); strike, and logistics and modernization. The Company’s segments include Aerospace Systems, Mission Systems and Technology Services.

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