Tech earnings: So far, investors say this glass is half empty
A price war with Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) battered Intel’s (INTC) margins – but sales were stronger than expected. (Intel’s stock chart for Wednesday, at left.) Yahoo’s (YHOO) continuing slump in graphical ads drew jeers – even though profits were up. EBay’s (EBAY) growth in auction listings stalled – though at the same time, growth in its PayPal and Skype units was off the charts. Logitech (LOGI) profits stumbled on webcam competition.
The lone big company to report thrilling numbers was IBM (IBM), with shares trading at their highest point in six years after Big Blue turned in earnings that were up 12 percent.
There’s bad news, and good news too – but aside from the IBM excitement, investors seem to be dwelling on the bad. We’re about halfway through a big earnings week for tech earnings; five of the 11 key tech stocks we highlighted on Monday have turned in their second-quarter results. But while none of the five has reported stinky profit numbers, the only stock to rise immediately was networking equipment maker Juniper Networks (JNPR).
So why the pessimism (besides the fact that most of these stocks had already risen in anticipation of good earnings)? And does this mean it’s a disappointing week for tech?
The pessimism on Intel comes because the company gave a not-too-rosy outlook for the second half of the year, after showing that pain from competitive pricing is spreading into retail laptop sales, where its profits used to be more stable. Some analysts raised their price targets on Intel after the report, sensing that the chipmaker was perhaps being overly cautious, but even that wasn’t enough to give the stock a lift.
Yahoo lives in the shadow of Google, and the company’s new CEO, Jerry Yang, has yet to offer a convincing turnaround plan. Yang said he would spend the next 100 days analyzing Yahoo’s business – and he said there would be no sacred cows spared scrutiny – but examination doesn’t equal results. Right now, a bet on Yahoo is a bet on Yang’s ability to analyze, inspire and execute; one could argue that Yahoo is today were Intel was a little more than a year ago.
EBay? Perhaps the company didn’t get a fair shake from Wall Street. When it bought PayPal and Skype, some people questioned how well those services would tie into eBay’s core auctions business. But now that PayPal revenue is up more than a third year-over-year at nearly half a billion dollars in revenue, and Skype sales more than doubled to $90 million, Meg Whitman & Co. don’t seem to get too much credit. (Whitman even gushed about how excited she is about eBay’s prospects for 2007 and 2008, but that didn’t move the needle on the stock.)
Still, two of the most-watched tech companies in all the land – Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) – report today after the markets close. Those two companies are so huge, and their fortunes are so often used to gauge the health of the tech universe, that it will be impossible to say whether this week’s glass is half empty or half full until they’ve had their say.