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Microsoft Nears $2 Trillion Market Cap. Earnings Are Tuesday.

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Analysts say checks with resellers and customers for Microsoft goods point to a strong result.

Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Wall Street is expecting Microsoft to report strong financial results when the company posts its March quarter numbers after the close of trading on Tuesday.

The consensus forecast among analysts is for revenue of $41 billion, up 17% from a year ago, with profits of $1.78 a share.  On Monday, Microsoft stock set an intraday record of $262.44, leaving the stock just a modest rally away from hitting a $2 trillion valuation for the first time. To get there, the stock needs to rise to $264.55.

The shares have gained 18% year to date.

Analysts expect another strong quarter from the company’s Azure and Office 365 cloud businesses, and will be looking for signs of accelerating growth in its enterprise operation. Sales of Surface hardware—laptops and whiteboards—were likely strong in the quarter, given the huge recent growth in PC purchases, although there is some potential that shortages of components resulted in unfilled demand. Strength in the PC market also bodes well for sales of the Windows operating system. 

Microsoft breaks down its results into three segments: Productivity and Business Processes, which includes Office 365, Dynamics, and LinkedIn; Intelligence Cloud, which includes Azure and enterprise server software; and More Personal Computing, which includes Windows, Xbox, Surface hardware, and Bing.

When Microsoft reported its results for its fiscal second quarter in late January, CFO Amy Hood provided revenue guidance for each segment. For Productivity and Business Processes, she projected revenue of $13.35 billion to $13.6 billion. The call for Intelligent Cloud was for revenue of $14.7 billion to $14.95 billion, while she predicted $12.3 billion to $12.7 billion for More Personal Computing. If revenue for each segment came in at the top of its forecast range, the total would be $41.25 billion.

In research notes, several analysts cited positive comments from customers and resellers in projecting strong results.

Last week, KeyBanc Capital’s Michael Turits repeated his Overweight rating on the stock while lifting his target for the price to $295, from $280. He says the company is likely benefiting from a combination of strong IT demand and continuing strength in PC shipments.

“We continue to see Microsoft’s combination of expanding Azure scope, broad enterprise application innovation, and aggressive bundling seeing success in the market,” he wrote. “Nearly all North American Microsoft distributors/resellers we spoke with reported Microsoft channel revenue on or above plan.”

J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Murphy came away from his own new survey of resellers of Microsoft products encouraged about the outlook. He says those companies’ quarterly sales of Microsoft goods came in an average of 3.3% above their expectations, driven by improving enterprise demand. He reported strength across the company’s enterprise product lines, with growth in Azure, Teams, Office 365, and security products, among other places. Murphy rates Microsoft at Overweight and has a target of $245 for the stock price.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives forecast “another masterpiece quarter,” driven by growth of at least 45% from Azure, which he thinks is taking market share from Amazon Web Services. He said the current work-from-home environment is encouraging more businesses to make strategic moves toward cloud-based operations “with Microsoft across the board with Azure growth remaining brisk.” He maintained an Outperform rating, with a target of $300 for the share price.

Citi analyst Tyler Radke last week reiterated a Buy rating on Microsoft shares, lifting his price target to $302, from $292, and setting a “positive catalyst watch” on the stock ahead of the results. He wrote that a combination of a survey of resellers and channel checks made him more confident that Microsoft can propel revenue across all three primary business segments, with strength in personal computer demand from both consumers and businesses, robust upgrade activity on server software, and continued strength in Azure as a result of “continued strong enterprise consumption growth.” 

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com