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Stocks  | December 22, 2020

Helped by the Covid-induced work-from-home trend as well as a sunny outlook for 2021, Microsoft (MSFT) received a pair of upbeat reports from Wall Street analysts. The notes gave Microsoft stock a lift on Monday during a mostly down day for the market.

Citi analyst Walter Pritchard upgraded Microsoft stock to buy from neutral and upped his price target to 272 from 229. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss reiterated his overweight rating on the software giant and raised his price target to 260 from 249.

On the stock market today, Microsoft stock rose 1.8% to 222.59.

Pritchard is bullish on Microsoft's cloud computing businesses. They include its Azure infrastructure services and Office 365 productivity software.

Covid-19 Trends A Tailwind For Microsoft Stock

Microsoft will continue to benefit from the work-from-home trend spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said in report late Sunday.

"Covid-19 had, initially, an uncertain impact on IT (information technology) spending across the board, with the March-to-June time frame seeing mixed, even negative impacts," Pritchard said. "What has become more clear is, in the months after the initial impact, the forces that have emerged with Covid-19 are likely to change the landscape for many years to come."

He sees large businesses moving more of their computing workloads to the cloud. Pritchard favors Microsoft's positioning in cloud computing vs.'s (AMZN) Amazon Web Services and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Cloud.

Top Pick For 2021

Morgan Stanley's Weiss called Microsoft stock "one of our top picks heading into 2021."

"We see potential for outperformance in fiscal 2021," he said in note to clients Friday. "The durability of growth and margin expansion are underappreciated" for Microsoft stock.

According to IBD MarketSmith charts, Microsoft stock has been consolidating for the past 16 weeks with a buy point of 232.96. However, IBD Leaderboard analysis has identified the stock's Nov. 9 high of 228.12 as an aggressive entry point.

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