Surging Cloud Revenue Sparks Microsoft Earnings Beat, Bull Gap

Surging Azure demand contributed to a quarterly earnings beat for Dow component Microsoft

Elizabeth Harrow
Apr 27, 2018 at 9:51 AM
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Software giant Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is on the upswing this morning as Wall Street cheers a fiscal third-quarter profit and revenue beat. The tech company's robust results were driven by strong enterprise demand for its Office 365 productivity suite and its Azure cloud service, with the latter generating revenue growth of 93%.

The better-than-forecast quarterly report has elicited price-target hikes from no fewer than five brokerage firms, including a move up to $110 by Canaccord Genuity. That freshly boosted target implies expected upside of nearly 17% to Thursday's MSFT close at $94.26, and it's also a few points north of the equity's average 12-month price target of $106.21.

In early trading, Microsoft stock is up 3.4% at $97.46. Ahead of the event, the options market was pricing in a post-earnings daily stock move of 5.7% -- a bit more dramatic than MSFT's average single-session swing of 3.4% over the past eight quarters (per Trade-Alert).

From a broader perspective, MSFT is up 42% year-over-year, guided higher by its 40-day and 80-day moving averages. Given this positive price trend, it's no surprise to note that analysts were already bullishly aligned on Microsoft ahead of last night's well-received earnings. The stock has racked up no fewer than 21 "buy" or better ratings, compared to only six "hold" or "sell" suggestions.

Likewise, options traders were heavily skewed toward calls ahead of earnings. Total call open interest on MSFT stands at 1.15 million contracts, in the 91st annual percentile, while total put open interest of 841,948 contracts registers in the low 24th percentile of its annual range. In the front-month series, peak call open interest can be found at the May 95 strike, where 38,315 contracts are newly in the money.


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