Week's Winners and Losers: Apple Ticks On, Disney Ticks Off

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Apple Watch Release
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There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with the leading consumer tech company finally catching up to hot demand for a new product and a family entertainment behemoth coming under fire for replacing employees with cheaper foreign immigrants on work visas.

Apple (AAPL) -- Winner

Production of Apple Watch devices is finally starting to catch up with demand. Apple announced that the popular smartwatch will be available for purchase in several new countries as well as at stateside Apple Store locations later this month.

There hasn't been any in-store availability since April's launch, but now Apple is saying that all of the orders placed through the end of May outside of a single watch model will be shipped within two weeks.

Apple didn't have a perfect week. There was a recall for one of its Beats speakers on fire hazard concerns. That's not fun, but the Apple Watch news is good enough to land the world's most valuable consumer tech company in the winner's circle.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) -- Loser

The market isn't a fan of peer pressure -- or Pier pressure. Wedbush analyst Seth Basham downgraded shares of the home furnishings retailer to a ho-hum neutral rating, fearing the implications of the chain resorting to large storewide markdowns in recent weeks.

Pier 1 had said late last year that it wouldn't resort to storewide sales, but here it is doing exactly that. Pier 1's stock has been one of the market's winners since bottoming out at 10 cents six years ago. It made the most of the spike in sales during the housing market's rebound, but it's been struggling lately.

Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winner

The country's most reputable retailer -- according to brand quality tracker Reputation Institute -- just happens to be the largest online retailer. Amazon took top honors for the third year in a row.

Reputation Institute bases its annual list on tens of thousands of interviews, weighing consumer perception of brands. It does point out that reputation scores in general have been trending higher in recent years, making Amazon's feat of coming out on top for the third consecutive time that much more impressive.

Disney (DIS) -- Loser

The family entertainment giant isn't always "the happiest place on Earth" for its employees. The New York Times ran a scathing article this week about Disney laying off 250 members of its IT team in Orlando, replacing them with cheaper foreign immigrants on temporary work visas.

This is a sliver of the 74,000 people that Disney does employ in Central Florida, but it still looks bad. Turning to these temporary H-1B visas for technology jobs is intended for foreigners with advanced tech skills that can't be found closer to home. However, since these foreign jobs merely replaced existing hires -- and the article points out that some of them were asked to train their replacements -- this doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the federal guidelines.

The layoffs actually happened in January, but The New York Times article is broadcasting the details this week. It's not working wonders for Disney's fairy tale reputation.

Ambarella (AMBA) -- Winner

The company behind the video chips powering HERO wearable cameras and Dropcam security recorders posted blowout quarterly results this week. Ambarella has beaten Wall Street's profit targets by a double-digit percentage margin every quarter since going public three years ago.

Analysts were generally impressed. Topeka Capital Markets boosted its price target to $105 from $75, and Needham upgraded its rating on the stock. Semiconductors can be a cutthroat business, but Ambarella's differentiated solutions continue to gain traction.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Ambarella and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com, Ambarella, Apple and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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