Rumors were rampant all over Wall Street that Barack Obama trotted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke out yesterday to calm the markets by declaring the recession could be over by the last half of 2009.
It was a surprise to hear Bernanke, who’s been relatively quiet about the economy to pop up in front of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and say that, not only are we way on the way out of recession, but that the federal government won’t be getting into the toxic financial mud on Wall Stgreet and begin nationalizing banks.
“It just isn’t necessary,” Bernanke said. Instead, Uncle Sam will try to faster a “public-private partnership” as Bernanke described it, which was music to the ears of investors across the globe yesterday and in early trading today in Japan and Europe.
"Equity holders in banks took solace from Bernanke's apparent preference for a public-private partnership solution to the banking crisis, rather than outright nationalization," said Daragh Maher, an analyst at Calyon Credit Agricole, told the Associated Press.
Maybe Bernanke’s soothing comment will spill over into the technology sector, as well. But don’t count on it.
Dell Computers is coming out with its quarterly earnings estimates on Thursday and the early murmurs are fairly negative. Wall Street analysts are increasingly negative on the stock, as evidenced by estimates measured by Thompson Financial. Two months ago, the consensus was for Q4 EPS of 32 cents a share; 30 days ago, the figure was down to 31 cents. Last week, the Street had dropped to 28 cents. On Tuesday, the number is down to 27 cents. The consensus revenue estimate is $14.38 billion, which would be down 10.1% versus a year earlier. “Given last week’s disappointing earnings report from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), the prospects for good news seem low,” says Eric Savetz at CNBC yesterday.
Part of the problem is that the personal computer industry is a steep slumber. Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi says this week that PC sales will be down 7.3% in 2009, from up 4.9% in an earlier analysis. Sacconaghi believes that industry revenue will fall by 16%, as a result. Bernstein is sticking to its “overweight” rating on the Dell, but he did slash his stock price target to $13.50, down from $15. Sacconaghi said the company’s turnaround plan is dependent on an ability to boost operating margins; he thinks it may be necessary for the company to cut more heads, even though Dell has already cut almost 9,000 jobs.
One feel-good story in the industry right now is SalesForce.com. The online sales services giant is expected to earn $285 million on profits of seven cents per share for the fourth quarter. Somehow, someway, Salesforce.com has been able to insulate itself from the economic headwinds, and is expected to stay in the black despite the lousy economy.
Michael Huang, ThinkEquity says that Salesforce.com forecasts are “somewhat mixed,” but he is “encouraged that deals are still getting done despite macro headwinds,” and that the company seems to be gaining market share. He thinks Q4 results “could show some mild degradation of trends, but nothing disastrous.” Huang keeps his Buy rating and $36 price target, and is touting the stock to his customers as a solid buying opportunity.