Altria shares have advanced slightly thus far today. The impetus for the move is the company's affirmation of its 2008 earnings expectations. MO sees per-share earnings increasing 9% to 11% from an adjusted base of $1.50. MO forecast a longer-term total annual shareholder return greater than 12% when combined with the dividend, per-share earnings growth of 8%-to-10%, and roughly $1 billion in annual cost savings.
As mentioned, today's gain is slight (less than of 1%), but it is a continuation of the general trend for MO. The stock is a solid performer, but it is facing overhead resistance from the 76 level. The good news is that the shares should be able to rely on their 10-month moving average for support. Furthermore, the speculative options crowd is bearishly aligned toward MO, as its Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.90 is higher than 81% of the past year's worth of readings. This high percentile ranking suggests that we could see pessimism unwind in the form of buying pressure. If this scenario takes place, we could see the stock breach resistance at 80.