Apple’s earnings loom large as tech sector’s rally hits headwinds.
It’s all on you Apple.
Apple Inc., the most valuable company in the world by market capitalization, is set to report fiscal third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, setting the tone for the technology sector and, to a large degree, the broader stock market.
While not a pure tech play, Tesla Inc. TSLA, +0.18% another high performing stock with a loyal following, will also announce second-quarter results on Wednesday.
The two Silicon Valley stars are preparing to unveil earnings at a time when stocks are losing energy even as they continue to set new records, leading Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, to suggest that the market is at a tipping point.
”This week could be the bulls’ last stand with Apple and Tesla wrapping up earnings season for big technology momentum plays,” said Cieszynski in his weekly outlook.
Apple AAPL, -0.70% is the last among the FAANG — an acronym for Facebook Inc. FB, +1.18% Apple, Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -2.48% Netflix Inc. NFLX, +0.74% and Alphabet Inc.’s Google GOOGL, +0.61% — to report and, arguably, the most influential.
“Apple is going to dictate what tech does and how they guide will determine where the sector goes given so many companies are tied into it,” said Ian Winer, head of the equities division at Wedbush Securities.
Aside from next quarter’s outlook, investors will also be looking for details on the upcoming launch of the much-anticipated iPhone 8.
Tech stocks have played a key role in propelling the market to repeated records but there are also signs that investors are becoming more difficult to impress.
Of the FAANGs that have reported earnings this month, Netflix and Facebook are surging on stellar results while Google and Amazon are floundering, ensuring Apple will get more than its usual share of scrutiny.
“You really have to crush it,” said Winer, noting that companies that have met expectations are actually selling off. “That tells me that earnings have been mostly priced in.”
Data from Bespoke Investment Group show that stocks beating earnings expectations are trading mostly flat while stocks that miss are hit hard, an indication that investors are “buying the rumor and selling the news.”
Fears about lofty valuations have also resurfaced, dragging on the tech sector in recent days and prompting comparison between today’s tech rally and the heydays of the dotcom boom.
“The FAANGs are truly great companies, growing rapidly and trouncing the competition — where it exists. But some are doing so without much profitability, and for others profits are growing slower than revenue,” said Howard Marks, co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, in a memo to investors this week.
These “super stocks” at some point become “priced for perfection,” said Marks, who was among the few to correctly predict the collapse of the Internet bubble. “In many cases, the companies’ perfection turns out eventually to be either illusory or ephemeral.”
That cautious tone flies against the market’s consensus of further upside for tech stocks.
Goldman Sachs is notably bullish, projecting tech will continue to outperform as investors chase growth stocks against the backdrop of a subdued economy.
“During periods of modest economic growth, investors gravitate to the scarce commodity: stocks with secular growth prospects,” said David Kostin, chief U.S. strategist at Goldman Sachs, in a note.
“The tech sector trades slightly above its historical level of relative valuation. However, superior sales growth will drive technology stock outperformance in an otherwise lackluster stock market that slips by 3% through year-end to 2,400 (on the S&P 500).”
Apart from tech, overall second-quarter earnings have been solid if not spectacular.
With slightly more than half of S&P 500 SPX, -0.13% components having reported, 73% are turning in better-than-expected earnings and sales with companies reporting earnings that are 6.4% above Wall Street’s estimates and beating sales by 1.2%, according to John Butters, senior analyst at FactSet.
Next week, 133 S&P 500 companies, including two Dow components, are on tap to release quarterly results.