Facebook, Microsoft steady tech stocks amid earnings deluge

2018-02-01 14:48 - Jeran Wittenstein, Bloomberg
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San Francisco -Shares of computer and Internet companies rebounded from after-hour losses as a two-day flood of earnings began with positive signals from Facebook and Microsoft. Bulls took solace from signs demand for their products remains brisk.

After falling as much as 0.6% after Wednesday’s close, the main exchange-traded fund tracking the Nasdaq 100 Index was trading virtually unchanged as of 6:27 am in New York. Another dose of results arrives today from megacap technology companies Apple, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet.

Should the trading hold - and it remained unsettled as the day began in the US - the overnight recovery would pull the group back from a decline that at one point left them poised from the worst weekly retreat since June.

Complacency was one thing investors couldn’t afford with Apple scheduled to update iPhone sales after the close and results due from everyone from Alibaba to Alphabet.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the company’s advertising business is “strong,” despite weakness in key areas - time spent and average daily users. Fourth-quarter sales rose 47% year-over-year to $12.97bn, topping estimates.

The stock initially fell as much as 5.2% in after-hours trading after the company reported a drop in time spent by users on the site and the first-ever decline in North American daily users.

Facebook rebounded and was up 2.2% at $191.03, after reassurances by Sandberg and other executives on the conference call.

Microsoft results were buoyed by brisk demand for online versions of its productivity programs, including Word and Excel, and the company’s business of selling storage and other computing tasks in its own data centres. Sales in the fiscal second quarter climbed 12% to $28.9bn, exceeding the average analyst estimate of $28.4bn.

After falling to $92 following Wednesday’s close, the stock erased post-market losses to trade at $95.14, up 13 cents from 4 pm in New York.

EBay gave an optimistic revenue forecast for the current quarter, boosting investor confidence in the company’s efforts to generate more traffic on the site.

Gross merchandise volume, a key metric, rose 10% to $24.4bn in the fourth quarter, the company said on Wednesday, as the number of active buyers on the platform increased. The stock was up 9.9% in pre-market trading.

Some of the other big tech companies reporting on Wednesday struck a more somber tone.

Qualcomm, a key Apple supplier, gave revenue and profit forecasts that underscored weakening demand for smartphones. Sales will be $4.8bn to $5.6bn in the current quarter, while analysts are predicting revenue of $5.6bn.

Earnings per share, excluding some items, will be 65c to 75c, short of the 86c predicted by analysts. The shares fell 1% to $67.60 after normal trading hours.

Apple, which has forecast revenue of $84bn to $87bn for the quarter that ended in December, has been dogged by supply chain reports indicating weaker-than-anticipated demand for its 10th anniversary iPhone.

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