Altria Shares March Higher on Sherman Buyout, Bright View

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Tobacco giant, Altria Group Inc. 's MO shares have been rising ever since the Marlboro owner has acquired the premium cigarette brand Nat Sherman on Jan 18, 2017. Further, investors are optimistic about the upcoming fourth-quarter earnings of the company scheduled to be released on Feb 1, 2017. Moreover, the company has given an optimistic outlook for the to-be-reported quarter. In fact, the company's shares hit a 52-week high of $70.63 on Jan 23, 2017.

What's Driving the Stock?

Altria has taken over privately-held Sherman Group Holdings, LLC and its subsidiaries (Nat Sherman) in an attempt to expand its premium smokeable category. However, the company did not disclose the terms of the transaction.

Nat Sherman specializes in super-premium cigarettes and premium cigars. The takeover is in sync with Altria's growth strategy of expanding its portfolio. Additionally, Nat Sherman joins Philip Morris USA Inc. and John Middleton Co. as part of Altria's smokeable products segment.

The takeover is anticipated to benefit Altria's smokeable segment which is currently plagued by declining volumes as more and more consumers are switching to less harmful alternative tobacco products. The premium brand, Nat Sherman will complement Altria's Marlboro brand which also falls under the premium category.

Further, Altria gave an optimistic outlook for full year 2016. It expects its 2016 adjusted EPS to be in a range of $2.98 to $3.04. The guidance represents a growth of 6.5% to 8.5% from 2015. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $3.03, up 8% from the year-ago level. Altria has reported positive surprises in three of the trailing four quarters with an average earnings surprise of positive 1.72%.

The company's shares have gained 9% in the past three months, outperforming the Zacks categorized Tobacco industry which has witnessed a gain of 3.8%.

Zacks Rank & Other Stock Picks

Altria currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader consumer staples sector include ConAgra Foods Inc. CAG , Campbell Soup Company CPB and Pinnacle Foods Inc. PF , all carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

ConAgra Foods has an expected earnings growth of 8%. Campbell Soup has an expected earnings growth rate of 5.6%, while Pinnacle Foods has a long-term growth rate of 6.5%.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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