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Altria Group (MO) Hits a 52-Week High on Solid Q1 Results

Shares of cigarette manufacturer Altria Group Inc. MO hit a new 52-week high of $65.53 on May 13, recording a healthy year-to-date return of 10.94%. The share price of the tobacco maker has been on the rise ever since the company posted solid first-quarter 2016 results.

Investors are also encouraged by the company’s positive outlook for fiscal 2016 and its recent development in the e-cigarette category.

Solid First-Quarter Performance

Altria’s first-quarter earnings of 72 cents were up 4.5% from the prior-year quarter on the back of higher pricing and strong performance of the core tobacco business and leading premium brands. Earnings also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 68 cents by 5.9%.

Top line surpassed the year-ago figure by 4.5% and beat the consensus estimate by 1%. All the business segments of the company reported higher year-over-year operating income backed by higher pricing and cost reduction initiatives.

Altria expects its business momentum to continue throughout the year. The company expects adjusted earnings per share in the range of $3.00 to $3.05. This range represents a growth rate of 7% to 9% from the adjusted diluted EPS figure of $2.80 posted in 2015. The Marlboro maker expects earnings to benefit from reduction in interest expense, effective tax rate and share count due to the current share buyback program.

Investors are also encouraged by the company’s attempt to strengthen its presence in the growing e-cigarette category. Altria’s subsidiary, Nu Mark LLC, expanded the distribution of MarkTen XL e-vapor products and Green Smoke e-cigarettes in several lead markets.

Zacks Rank & Other Stocks to Consider

Altria carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other favorably ranked stocks in the tobacco sector include Philip Morris International Inc.PM and Reynolds American Inc. RAI, both of which carry a Zacks Rank #2. Another stock in the consumer staples sector worth considering is Tyson Foods Inc. TSN with the same Zacks Rank as Altria.

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TYSON FOODS A (TSN): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ALTRIA GROUP (MO): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
PHILIP MORRIS (PM): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
REYNOLDS AMER (RAI): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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