Stocks Up as Earnings Season Soldiers On


Stocks are broadly higher today, absent one notable exception, as earnings season continues to demonstrate that fourth-quarter corporate profits weren't as bad as originally expected. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 48 points, or 0.35%.

Today's earnings announcements
This week is one of the busiest weeks of earnings season, with multiple well-known companies reporting both yesterday and today.

One of the more notable performances thus far came after the closing bell yesterday from Netflix , the pioneering DVD-rental and streaming business. The company surprised analysts with earnings of $0.13 per share, versus a forecast loss of the same magnitude. As a result of the news, shares of the company soared in after-hours trading last night and continued their ascent today, up 41% as I write.

Earlier in the week, search giant Google similarly beat expectations with earnings of $10.65 per share compared with a consensus estimate of $10.54. Over the last few quarters, the cost that advertisers pay Google for each click has been dropping, impacting the company's bottom line. This trend appears to have reversed last quarter, at least temporarily, growing by 2% over the preceding three months. Google's advertising revenue accordingly increased by approximately 22% on a year-over-year basis.

After the closing bell today, software pioneer Microsoft is set to report its fiscal first-quarter results. Investors have struggled over the past year to piece together how well Microsoft's strategy of revamping its operating system and releasing the Surface tablet has gone. With this in mind, analysts are waiting to see how many Windows 8 licenses the company sold and whether its Surface tablet was a hit among consumers during the all-important holiday-shopping season. The consensus forecast is calling for earnings of $0.56 per share.

Finally, wireless carrier AT&T is set to report earnings alongside Microsoft after the market closes today. Beyond the bottom-line figure, the main metrics of interest to investors and analysts are customer additions, margins, iPhone sales, and upgrade rates. With respect to the first, the company trails its competitor Verizon by an estimated 20 million, and it's generally assumed that the gap will further widen this quarter. The bottom-line consensus forecast for AT&T is $0.60 per share.

The precipitous drop in Netflix shares since the summer of 2011 caused many shareholders to lose hope. While the company's first-mover status is often viewed as a competitive advantage, the opportunities in streaming media have brought some new, deep-pocketed rivals looking for their piece of a growing pie. Can Netflix fend off this burgeoning competition, and will its international growth aspirations pay off? These are must-know issues for investors, which is why we've released a brand-new premium report on Netflix. Inside, you'll learn about the key opportunities and risks facing the company, as well as reasons to buy or sell the stock. We're also offering a full year of updates as key news hits, so be sure to click here and claim a copy today.

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John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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