Ashland Inc. (NYSE:ASH) saw unusually-high trading volume on Wednesday . Approximately 758,523 shares changed hands during trading, an increase of 41% from the previous session’s volume of 539,336 shares.The stock last traded at $124.28 and had previously closed at $123.12.

ASH has been the topic of a number of recent analyst reports. Jefferies Group reaffirmed a “buy” rating on shares of Ashland in a research note on Wednesday, July 6th. Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded shares of Ashland from an “outperform” rating to a “neutral” rating and cut their price target for the stock from $122.00 to $119.00 in a research note on Thursday, July 28th. Finally, Zacks Investment Research downgraded shares of Ashland from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research note on Monday, July 4th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, one has given a hold rating, five have assigned a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the stock. The company presently has a consensus rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $125.75.

The firm’s 50 day moving average price is $116.71 and its 200-day moving average price is $113.72. The stock has a market capitalization of $7.66 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 41.14 and a beta of 1.22.

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Ashland (NYSE:ASH) last released its earnings results on Tuesday, July 26th. The company reported $1.95 earnings per share for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $2.04 by $0.09. The firm earned $1.29 billion during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $1.32 billion. Ashland had a return on equity of 15.90% and a net margin of 3.86%. During the same period last year, the business earned $1.91 earnings per share. On average, equities research analysts anticipate that Ashland Inc. will post $6.87 earnings per share for the current year.

The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Thursday, September 15th. Stockholders of record on Friday, August 19th were given a $0.39 dividend. This represents a $1.56 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.27%. The ex-dividend date was Wednesday, August 17th. Ashland’s dividend payout ratio (DPR) is currently 51.32%.

In other news, VP Anne T. Schumann sold 496 shares of Ashland stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, July 18th. The shares were sold at an average price of $121.61, for a total value of $60,318.56. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. 1.27% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Vanguard Group Inc. increased its position in Ashland by 1.7% in the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 4,760,801 shares of the company’s stock valued at $546,398,000 after buying an additional 77,778 shares during the period. BlackRock Fund Advisors increased its position in shares of Ashland by 4.0% in the second quarter. BlackRock Fund Advisors now owns 2,232,316 shares of the company’s stock worth $256,203,000 after buying an additional 85,205 shares during the last quarter. State Street Corp increased its position in shares of Ashland by 2.5% in the first quarter. State Street Corp now owns 2,145,414 shares of the company’s stock worth $235,921,000 after buying an additional 51,438 shares during the last quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. increased its position in shares of Ashland by 0.7% in the second quarter. BlackRock Institutional Trust Company N.A. now owns 1,897,399 shares of the company’s stock worth $217,764,000 after buying an additional 13,192 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Neuberger Berman Group LLC increased its position in shares of Ashland by 0.6% in the second quarter. Neuberger Berman Group LLC now owns 1,132,279 shares of the company’s stock worth $129,952,000 after buying an additional 7,095 shares during the last quarter. 86.89% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

About Ashland

Ashland Inc is engaged in specialty chemicals, and through Valvoline, is a consumer-branded lubricant supplier. The Company operates in three segments: Ashland Specialty Ingredients (Specialty Ingredients), Ashland Performance Materials (Performance Materials) and Valvoline. Its Specialty Ingredients segment is engaged in providing cellulose ethers, vinyl pyrrolidones and biofunctionals, and consists of two divisions: Consumer Specialties and Industrial Specialties.

5 Day Chart for NYSE:ASH

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