Today: Google's (GOOG) revenues exceed analyst expectations, leading to a rise in the search giant's stock price. Also: Apple (AAPL) stock gains ahead of Wednesday's earnings report, helping indexes again set five-year highs.
Google continues to haul in cash and look to the future
Google capped a year of record revenues with a fourth quarter that beat analysts' expectations, helping push the stock higher as an important four-day stretch of tech earnings began Tuesday.
Google announced profits of $8.62 a share on revenues of $11.34 billion, after subtracting commissions paid to advertising partners. After excluding one-time charges, the Mountain View company's earnings per share were $10.65 for the October-December quarter. According to a Thomson Reuters analysis, Wall Street analysts were expecting Google to report earnings of $8.48 a share, or $10.52 a share excluding one-time charges, on revenue of $12.36 billion.
The revenue figure has been a bone of contention, as Google -- which typically does not communicate with Wall Street analysts -- issued a blog post last week telling prognosticators that they needed to reduce revenue forecasts because Google could not include revenues from Motorola Home, which it agreed to sell in the fourth quarter. Google said its revenues before subtracting commissions and with Motorola Home totaled up to $15.24 billion.
"Business looked really strong, especially from a profitability perspective. They really grew their margins in the core business, which is quite amazing," B. Riley analyst Sameet Sinha marveled to Reuters after seeing the numbers.
CEO Larry Page -- who was famously noted in last quarter's mistakenly sent earnings report with the phrase "Pending Larry quote" -- pointed out in this quarterly report that Google exceeded annual revenues of $50 billion for the first time, which he called "not a bad achievement in just a decade and a half."
In a conference call with analysts following the report's release, Page expounded on the company's direction, talking about the future of Android in cars, the $8 million in advertising generated by the viral YouTube hit "Gangnam Style," and monetization of Google Maps.
Investors liked what they saw and heard, pushing Google stock up more than 5 percent to $738.20 by 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, after shares declined 0.2 percent in the regular session. The stock took a pounding after last quarter's disappointing earnings report, but Google is nearing the $755.49 price that it had before that decline.
Earnings reports that provide details on tech companies' fourth-quarter earnings and full-year performance began arriving last week with eBay (EBAY) and Intel (INTC), but this week could prove to be the most important for Silicon Valley and the technology sector in general, with several important reports scheduled for release.
In addition to Google's report Tuesday, struggling Sunnyvale chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices told investors that their losses continue to pile up, but still beat projections; IBM announced profits grew 6 percent, completing an entire decade of year-over-year growth; and Sunnyvale medical-device company Intuitive Surgical beat expectations thanks to strong demand for its da Vinci surgical robots. All three stocks advanced in late trading, led by Intuitive Surgical, which surged more than 8 percent higher. San Jose's Super Micro Computer and Texas Instruments also moved higher in late trading following earnings reports.
Apple gains ahead of earnings report as Verizon notes strong iPhone sales
With Tuesday's earnings reports in the hands of reporters and analysts, eyes turn to Wednesday's big report: Cupertino tech giant Apple, which is expected to release earnings about 1:30 p.m. Pacific time.
Analysts concerned that Apple may not have sold as many iPhones as expected in the holiday quarter were likely relieved by Verizon's earnings report, released early Tuesday. The largest wireless carrier in the United States reported that it activated a record 6.2 million iPhones in the holiday quarter, and almost half of them were the iPhone 5 model that Apple introduced in September. The bumper quarter was fueled by the launch of the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21. Two out of every three smartphones the company activated were iPhones, also a Verizon record.
Analyst discord on Apple continued Tuesday, however, as UBS analysts dropped their price target and earnings projections because it sees Apple's margins dipping as customers begin to look for cheaper phones in the next few years. However, UBS maintained a "Buy" rating for Apple, as its revised price target of $650 is still higher than Apple's current stock price.
While many analysts were focused on Apple's earnings, some chose to predict what products Apple will come out with this year, including yet another iTV prediction from Gene Munster and Jefferies analyst Peter Misek musing about new iPhones to come this year.
When it comes to Apple's earnings reports, analysts cannot find agreement, leading to a shocking array of projected outcomes.
"This is by far the widest distribution of estimates we've ever seen,'' Leigh Drogen, co-founder and CEO of forecasting site Estimize, told Mercury News reporter Patrick May on Tuesday. "It's really amazing because there's simply no consensus there about Apple; the analysts are all over the map.''
After last week's volatility ended with Apple at $500 on the nose, the company's stock gained 1 percent Tuesday to close at $504.77. For live coverage of Apple's earnings report and the conference call likely featuring top executives such as CEO Tim Cook, go to www.siliconvalley.com Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time.
Indexes again hit five-year highs, Facebook pops higher than $30
Stock indexes gained in regular trading Tuesday, the first trading day of the week as U.S. markets closed Monday for MLK Day, pushing the Dow Jones and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes to five-year highs for the second consecutive day. Positive earnings reports from large, blue-chip companies like DuPont helped push those indexes higher.
Tech stocks were not as fortunate, with earnings-related gains coming after the bell and there fore not helping indexes on Tuesday. the Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent, trailing the 0.5 percent growth in the other two major U.S. indexes, while the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies advanced even less, at 0.1 percent.
One of Silicon Valley's biggest gainers Tuesday was Facebook, as the Menlo Park social network increased 3.6 percent to again close higher than $30 a share. German researchers announced Tuesday, however, that the company could face pressure from users, who get depressed about the happy pictures and tales they see from their friends every day.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 8.47, or 0.27 percent, to 3,143.18
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 62.51, or 0.46 percent, to 13,712.21
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 6.58, or 0.44 percent, to 1,492.56
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.