Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced that its Board of Directors has authorized an increase of more than 50 percent to the Company’s program to return capital to shareholders. Under the expanded program, Apple plans to utilize a cumulative total of $200 billion of cash by the end of March 2017.

As part of the revised program, the Board has increased its share repurchase authorization to $140 billion from the $90 billion level announced last year. In addition, the Company expects to continue to net-share-settle vesting restricted stock units.

The Board has also approved an increase of 11 percent to the Company’s quarterly dividend, and has declared a dividend of $.52 per share, payable on May 14, 2015 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on May 11, 2015.

From the inception of its capital return program in August 2012 through March 2015, Apple has returned over $112 billion to shareholders, including $80 billion in share repurchases.

To assist in funding the program, the Company plans to continue to access the domestic and international debt markets. The management team and the Board will continue to review each element of the capital return program regularly and plan to provide an update on the program on an annual basis.

“We believe Apple has a bright future ahead, and the unprecedented size of our capital return program reflects that strong confidence,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “While most of our program will focus on buying back shares, we know that the dividend is very important to many of our investors, so we’re raising it for the third time in less than three years.” (Original Source)

Shares of Apple closed today at $132.65, up $2.37 or 1.82%. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $126.10 and its 200-day moving average is $116.52.

On the ratings front, Apple has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report released today, Jefferies Co. analyst Sundeep Bajikar maintained a Hold rating on AAPL, with a price target of $135, which represents a slight upside potential from current levels. Separately, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster reiterated a Buy rating on the stock today, with price target of $160.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Sundeep Bajikar and Gene Munster have a total average return of 28.1% and 28.8% respectively. Bajikar has a success rate of 72.9% and is ranked #66 out of 3581 analysts, while Munster has a success rate of 73.5% and is ranked #1.

The street is mostly Bullish on AAPL stock. Out of 45 analysts who cover the stock, 32 suggest a Buy rating , 12 suggest a Hold and one recommend to Sell the stock. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $143.02, which represents a potential upside of 7.8% from where the stock is currently trading.