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Mixed earnings from US tech giants may do little to assuage worried investors

A mixed bag of earnings from some of Wall Street’s biggest companies may muddy the outlook for investors hoping to “buy the dip” amid a vicious stock market selloff.

With a massive week of corporate results under way, Google parent Alphabet Inc reported first-quarter revenue below expectations, while software giant Microsoft Corp forecast double-digit revenue growth for its next fiscal year.

Investors have focused on results from some of Wall Street’s biggest names this week, hoping they could provide a counterweight to the deluge of news that has battered stocks in recent days, highlighted by concerns over an increasingly hawkish Federal Reserve to worries over geopolitical turbulence stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Though most of the earnings season lies ahead, some investors worry that anything less than stellar results from corporate behemoths will do little to stem a slide in stocks that left the S&P 500 down 12.4 per cent on the year after Tuesday’s 2.8 per cent drop. The Nasdaq on Tuesday hit its lowest closing level since December 2020 as it lost nearly 4 per cent, bringing it 22 per cent below the all-time high it hit less than six months ago, on Nov. 19.

“There’s a lot of anxiety ahead of the earnings because if they don’t hold up, then there’s nothing left to hold up the market,” said Thomas Hayes, chairman at Great Hill Capital in New York.

Despite the mixed results from big growth names, earnings in the broad S&P 500 have topped analyst expectations. Overall, about 81 per cent of companies have exceeded earnings expectations, with first-quarter profits now expected to have climbed 8.2 per cent from the year-ago period, up from an estimated 6.4 per cent at the start of April, according to Refinitiv data as of Tuesday morning.

Yet there have been some high-profile disappointments, including growth-stock poster child Netflix, whose shares were pummeled after its results.

“Expectations for growth (companies) are very, very high, and you don’t meet expectations and you are going to see the Netflix or the Google drops,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management in Chicago. “It’s not industry specific, it’s more company specific.”

Microsoft’s shares were higher in after-hours trading on Tuesday, while Alphabet’s declined.

In another setback for growth stocks, Tesla shares tumbled 12 per cent on Tuesday after the electric carmaker’s CEO, Elon Musk, clinched his deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion.

But on the upbeat side, shares of Visa rose in after-hours trade on Tuesday after the payments company said it expects revenue to accelerate past pre-pandemic levels. Markets could get fresh jolts later this week as other results flow in, including from Apple, Amazon.com and Facebook owner Meta Platforms. With only a few days left in the month, the S&P 500 is down 7.8 per cent for April so far, which would be its biggest monthly percentage drop since March 2020.

Even so, there may be some reason for optimism in April’s final days. According to Bespoke Investment Group, in 39 prior months since 1980 where the S&P 500 was down at least 5 per cent with three trading days left, the S&P averaged a gain of 1.51 per cent in the final three trading days of these months. “Usually, the final three trading days of these bad months offer up some relief for investors,” Bespoke said in a note. CNA

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