Shares of Palo Alto Networks Inc (PANW) - Get Report are flying higher in early Friday trading, up about 9% to $144.50 after the company beat on fourth-quarter earnings and revenue estimates. Guidance came in strong, with the midpoints for most major metrics above consensus.
Coming into Friday, PANW stock had been pretty rocky. Up 6.1% on the year as of Thursday's close, those year-to-date gains are poised to more than double on Friday. Volatility has been a big story for Palo Alto -- plunging in February, soaring in June -- and investors are hoping Friday's action is the start of something bigger. They want to see PANW stock retest its 2015 highs near $200 a share.
Palo Alto isn't only drawing the attention of investors on Friday, it's also got analysts taking a closer look.
Starting off with a bang, JPMorgan analyst Sterling Auty upgraded PANW stock to overweight and assigned a price target of $182, up from his prior target of $140. The new target represents nearly 40% upside from Thursday's close and more than 25% upside from Friday's opening prices. Auty reasoned that Palo Alto Networks no longer has execution issues surrounding its sales performance and that its refreshed product line came at a perfect time.
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RBC Capital's Matthew Hedberg also raised his price target, boosting it to $159 from $145. He argues that PANW's guidance should make investors more comfortable going forward.
Jefferies analyst John DiFucci raised his price target to $168 and maintains a buy rating. DiFucci touched more on the leadership of Palo Alto Networks, pointing out that CFO Steffan Tomlinson is retiring and the company changed its head of U.S. sales. Despite this though, DiFucci sees more than 16% upside from Friday's open.
Last but not least, Citi's Walter Pritchard boosted his price target to $168 as well. Like Hedberg, he too is taking comfort in the company's guidance for full-year 2018. PANW stock will likely be rewarded as a result, he said.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.