Anxiety over corporate earnings is driving the stock market down this week, with stocks dropping 232 points on Tuesday and the futures market dipping downward in early Wednesday trading. While many companies (like Apple, covered below) are hitting their Q3 numbers, most are forecasting a gloomy revenue picture going forward into 2009.
The U.S. Treasure issued a statement saying that the U.S. economy will continue to struggle for a year, but should strengthen "by late 2009". So we have that going for us, which is good.
When the economy does rally, more and more economic pundits are saying that technology will lead the way. That's the thrust of a CNBC.com interview this week with Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who says his company, in particular, is ready to rebound.
"What we have to do is focus on where the markets are going,” Otellini tells CNBC. “Over the past few years we developed a whole new product line that will introduce lower cost computers while still allowing for very good profit margins for Intel. We used our best technology to build tiny devices but at lower costs. To me that gives us a great buffer no matter which way the economy blows.”
Otellini adds that new markets like cell phones represent a great opportunity for Intel. "I’d like to see us take our architecture into three other markets that are right near us. The first is the cell phone business. The second is consumer electronics and the third is the world on embedded control. Those are enormous markets for semiconductors today and Intel doesn’t participate in those. And they all share a common theme. They are going to be connected to the Internet. (But) I don’t see us doing a giant acquisition to get there. I think we can do that on our own. But we may do some small bits of technology acquisition to fill portfolio holes that we may have.”
Otellini acknowledges that while the economy is suffering, things aren't as bad as they seem. “Our business is better than the headlines out there. We’re staying focused, not getting distracted and taking advantage of the fact that we have a lot of cash.”
Another tech giant that could be at the forefront of any market recovery is Apple, which announced its Q3 earnings on Tuesday. Apple says its quarterly profits rose 26 percent, bolstered by strong sales of its iPhone in the U.S. and (especially) abroad). Apple reported a profit in its fiscal fourth-quarter ended Sept. 27 of $1.14 billion, or $1.26 a share, up from $904 million, or $1.01 a share, in the year-ago period. Analysts were expecting the company to post a profit of $1.11 a share on revenue of $8.04 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.
Both Apple, which saw its stock rise 12% in extended trading, and AT&T (which markets the iPhone under an exclusive deal with Apple) seem to be bearing up well in an otherwise brutal third quarter. AT&T saw its stock rise three percent yesterday, primarily because of Apple's encouraging earnings numbers. Altogether, Apple says it has shipped over 6.8 million new iPhones during Q3. For its part, AT&T says it has signed up up to two million new wireless phone subscribers for the quarter. AT&T releases its Q3 earnings later this morning.
The lionhearted among us will get into Apple and Intel now. The more reserved will wait a quarter or even two. But expect both tech behemoths to lead the tech sector back into the money - hopefully sooner rather than later.