Analysts Keep Raising Google Targets Ahead Of Q3 Results; Market Cap Nears $200 Billion

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The Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) price target update parade marches on. Wednesday, Merrill Lynch did it. On Tuesday, it was Bank of America. Thursday, RBC and Stifel Nicolaus chimed in. And you can bet there will be more where that came from. After all, as Google shares continue to march relentlessly skyward, the stock is blowing past one analyst target after another, which leaves them three choices: downgrade the stock, set a new target, or live with the paradox of a rating that makes no sense given their price target. All of this Google glee has the stock soaring; the stock is a hair away from a $200 billion market cap.

So, here’s Thursday morning’s batch:

RBC Capital’s Jordan Rohan upped his target to $690 from $560, and raised his EPS estimates. For Q3, he goes to $3.84, from $3.63. For 2007, he’s now at $15.59, from $15.39; for ‘08 he goes to $20.63, from $20.28; for ‘09, he sees $25.58.

Rohan says the higher Q3 number reflects “strength in Europe, due to current and robust spending from [the] online-travel category.” He continues to see 3% sequential revenue growth in the U.S., “as rising traffic costs…could offset upside from gains in market share and monetization.” He says that after the recent run, the upside from the earnings report could be modest. He maintains his Outperform rating.

George Askew, of Stifel Nicolaus, upped his target to $710, from $620. For the quarter, he sees revenue ex-TAC of $2.9 billion, with EPS of $3.80. He sees four places to focus for the Google earnings release and conference call coming up next Thursday: headcount expenses, mobile Internet strategy, video monetization and core search. Askew expects a focus on the same areas at a meeting with analysts on October 24.

Meanwhile, in the paradox category, we have Jefferies & Co.’s Youssef Squali, who Thursday morning repeated his Buy rating, asserting that the company should beat expectations for the quarter. The problem is that his price target is $595, and the stock has whooshed right past that. “While the stock surpassed our price target following its recent run,” he writes, “we are maintaining a positive bias and will update our model after the report.”

Google shares are up (natch) once again Thursday; the stock has tacked on another $12.30, or 2%, to $637.69. The shares are up more than $58, or 10%, in the last five sessions; the company now has a market cap of $199 billion.