LinkedIn hits 200 million members, Facebook hits $30 share price
Social networking companies jumped into the spotlight Wednesday, as LinkedIn announced that it had surpassed 200 million members and Facebook stock moved higher than $30 for the first time in almost six months ahead of a mysterious event announced Tuesday.
LinkedIn's announcement was deemed "an important and exciting milestone for the company" by executive Deep Nishar, who wrote a blog post on the subject in which he also said "This milestone is more than just a metric -- it's a reminder of the global footprint and the scale of impact our network has each day."
In terms of members, LinkedIn still trails other Silicon Valley social networks such as Facebook (more than a billion), Google (GOOG)+ (more than 500 million) and Twitter (200 million active users, likely more than 500 million members). However, the Mountain View professional-networking company relies less on advertising to its members for revenue than the others, premium memberships and recruiting partnerships are big money makers for the company.
LinkedIn stock rose after the news, with shares rising 2.2 percent to $113.66.
Facebook has not found as much love on Wall Street as LinkedIn, which went public at $45 a share almost exactly one year before Mark Zuckerberg's company. Facebook shares fell below their $38 IPO price on the second day of public trading for the stock and have never touched that price again, but shares hit a their highest level since July on Wednesday as investors grow more positive on the Menlo Park company.
Facebook stock gained 5.3 percent to close at $30.59 Wednesday, one day after the company sent an invitation to an event at its headquarters next week in which it asks reporters to "come and see what we're building." Before Wednesday, Facebook shares had not hit nor closed higher than $30 since July 13, barely two months after its record-breaking initial public offering.
Facebook has not had a large press event in more than a year, The Los Angeles Times reported, and the announced event has led to lots of guesses at a topic. The Wall Street Journal continues to insist that Facebook could develop its own smartphone, even though Zuckerberg has shot down that idea pretty strongly. Speculators have also talked about a redesign of Facebook's homepage, a new e-commerce offering on top of Facebook Gifts, a search engine, a new data center, or even a new mobile-advertising strategy.
"They are all about monetization, so [Facebook] will probably talk about promoted offers, which I've seen a lot of lately," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told MarketWatch. "But it could be yet another new product."
Facebook's mystery event may have had a hand in Wednesday's stock increase, but analysts and investors are also growing more comfortable with the company's revenue strategy, Bloomberg News reports. "The market is starting to appreciate that there is real money there," Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser said.
Wall Street rebounds after good start to earnings season
Wall Street kicked into gear Wednesday, showing gains after two straight days of small losses in the wake of the official opening of earnings season. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average and tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 0.5 percent while the broad-based Standard & Poor's 500 trailed with a 0.3 percent increase.
Alcoa, an aluminum company that is traditionally the first Dow Jones component to release earnings every quarter, put forth a decent earnings report Tuesday after the bell, but its stock price fell 0.2 percent despite early gains Wednesday. Still, the company's success cheered investors concerned about financial performance in the final quarter of 2012, though they still sounded a cautious note.
"Alcoa's report got us off to a good start. Still, earnings growth is going to be a little bit harder to come by. If we see some good results from bellwether companies, that will definitely give a lift to the market," Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at Oakbrook Investments, told Bloomberg News.
Apple drags tech stocks down, HP and Intel gain
Silicon Valley technology stocks underperformed against the rest of the market, as the SV150 index of the region's largest tech companies basically held steady, losing a scant 0.03 percent. Much of that weakness could be attributed to Apple, which makes up a large portion of the index and dropped 1.6 percent Wednesday.
The Cupertino tech giant fell one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that it is likely to release a cheaper iPhone. The decrease could signal that investors are concerned about the effect of such a move on sales of its current line of smartphones, as well as the effect on the company's profit margins.
Other companies notched gains on Wednesday: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) rose 3 percent while analysts continued to mull the effects of a breakup of the Palo Alto tech giant, and Intel (INTC) gained 1.7 percent while defending claims about its new chips.
One other notable decline was for Yahoo (YHOO), which dipped 1.7 percent. AllThingsD reporter Kara Swisher noted Wednesday that ComScore readings show the company's core properties have seen traffic decline substantially in the past year.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 14, or 0.45 percent, to 3,105.81
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 61.66, or 0.46 percent, to 13,390.51
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 3.87, or 0.27 percent, to 1,461.02
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.