Microsoft Stock Remains a Safe Buy as Markets Bounce Back

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[Editor’s note: “Microsoft Stock Remains a Safe Buy in Today’s Uncertain Market” was originally published on April 12. It is regularly updated to include the most relevant information.]

Microsoft Stock Remains a Safe Buy as Markets Bounce Back

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has shown great strength in light of the novel coronavirus. As seen from last month’s earnings report, growth in the company’s cloud businesses remains in motion. If there ever was a time for cloud computing, now’s likely the moment. This is a strong catalyst, as Microsoft stock inches closer to prior highs.

In short, shares could continue to climb higher as markets recover overall. Sure, uncertainty remains, but valuation may be reasonable, considering the company’s underlying strength. With this outbreak, you have millions working from home. To keep business moving, many are using Microsoft’s remote-friendly applications. These include Skype, Office 365, and now, Microsoft Teams. Speaking of Teams, the collaboration platform is just getting started and could help bolster long-term growth.

Let’s dive in, and see why Microsoft is still a buy in today’s market.

Microsoft, Coronavirus and Teams

As markets rebound after the coronavirus-driven sell-off, it’s tough to separate good buys from potential value traps. With many industries affected by the virus and associated shutdowns, it’s tough to handicap where these companies will be one or two years out. I’m talking about sectors like airlines, casinos, restaurants, and retail.

Yet, with tech names like Microsoft, uncertainty may be limited. As seen from the recent earnings release on April 29, the company saw minimal impact from the pandemic. Revenue from its Azure cloud business grew 59% from the prior year’s quarter. Office 365 revenues climbed 25%. Revenue overall grew 15%, and earnings per share jumped 23% year-over-year.

But growth across these platforms isn’t the only thing to get excited about. Microsoft Teams, a collaboration platform on par with Slack (NYSE:WORK), is quickly gaining critical mass. The service now has 44 million active users. The application could also give rival Zoom Video (NASDAQ:ZM) a run for its money. With  New York City school system choosing Teams over Zoom due to security concerns could mean other large-scale end-users go with this platform for video teleconferencing needs.

What does the success of Teams mean for Microsoft going forward? The company’s updated guidance had a wider range than normal, to account for coronavirus uncertainty. Yet, with “shelter-in-place” as a tailwind, and new platforms like Teams gaining steam, the company could again beat expectations next quarter.

Despite Valuation, Microsoft Could Still Head Higher

I don’t have to tell you about the strong performance of Microsoft before the selloff. Driven by growth in the company’s Azure cloud business and related platforms, shares soared from around $120 per share in April 2019, to as high as $190.70 per share in February 2020. Quite impressive, considering what it takes to move the needle for a trillion-dollar company.

When shares took a dip in March, shares became more reasonably priced. But even though the stock has rebounded to just a few dollars below its all-time high, shares could still move higher. Even as the tech giant again trades at premium valuation.

What do I mean? Analyst consensus calls for earnings to grow around 8.9% between Fiscal 2020 (ending June 2020) and Fiscal 2021. In other words, I wouldn’t say Microsoft is “cheap,” considering its near-term growth prospects.

The stock’s forward price-to-earnings ratio stands at 32.5. Compared to FAANG names like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), that looks pricey. Apple trades for around 25 times forward earnings.

However, their merits as a blue chip tech stock could help sustain its current valuation, and provide additional upside. Today’s risk-off market calls for “flight to quality” names, less affected by the pandemic and its shutdowns. In this regard, MSFT is just the ticket.

Don’t Expect Big Moves, But Still a Solid Buy

I wouldn’t buy into Microsoft thinking shares are going to post massive gains in the next year. But, in terms of finding a low-risk opportunity with upside, the company’s shares may be the place to be.

As seen from earnings, coronavirus has had minimal impact on Microsoft’s bottom line. With recent events serving as a tailwind, growth remains in motion. Add in the potential for Teams to gain critical mass in the next year, and the trillion-dollar tech giant continues to have runway.

Sure, valuation is not dirt cheap. But in terms of quality and low-risk, it may be worth the price. As market uncertainty remains, consider adding Microsoft to your portfolio.

Thomas Niel, contributor to InvestorPlace, has written single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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