Earnings season has begun and, while not perfect, two important technology companies reported solid results.
Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ/ORCL) beat consensus with its latest numbers and guided its next quarter higher on surprisingly strong software sales to corporate customers. This is very good news for the entire technology sector and an important signal from such a large, benchmark company.
Also providing some good news to the technology sector was Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ/ADBE), which beat on earnings by one cent per share and guided its upcoming fourth quarter higher, surprising Street analysts.
These two companies show very good strength in corporate software sales and an improvement in retail-level software demand. It’s a very good way to begin this earnings season.
We also had some positive news from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT), which announced that it was increasing its dividend by 25%. This is the company’s largest dividend increase in its history and the sixth time it’s done so. Microsoft isn’t the growth company it used to be; but, by offering more income to shareholders, it should begin to entice a new class of investor who previously didn’t consider it.
So while the Main Street economy continues to experience virtually zero growth, the corporate world seems to be doing just fine. This has been a trend for the last several quarters where large companies have been able to report very solid financial results (considering the state of the domestic economy) and a big improvement in balance sheets. The corporate world is seemingly in very fine shape and valuations on the stock market continue to improve with growing earnings.
This early good news from the technology sector is a real boost, as far as I’m concerned. The Street has been looking to the technology industry to report some good news, but the industry hasn’t been able to do so over the last few quarters. It’s still early days in this reporting period, but I think that, at the very least, we can say that we’re off to a decent start.
This is a stock market that is still fraught with higher-than-normal investment risk. It’s easy to make the case that a lot of stocks are undervalued at this time; but with sentiment so fragile and the potential for big shocks (as in country debt defaults), it’s understandable why investors are sitting on the sidelines. What we need in this market are stability and an improvement in confidence. Only then will investors be buyers of equities. Slow economic growth is now the expectation going into 2012, so this reality is fully priced into stocks. We’re almost at a point where we could get a solid stock market rally; but the market needs reassurance that the euro currency won’t come apart before buying the strength in corporate earnings. Any good news hitting the wires should be well received by the marketplace. We’ve had the correction and are almost finished with the consolidation.