Stocks Mixed Again As Netflix and eBay Jump After Hours

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks finished mixed yet again today as earnings season heated up, and investors mulled the results of the all-important holiday season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 41 points, or 0.3%, primarily because of IBM's 3.3% drop on a poor earnings report last night, while both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 gained modestly. So far this season, earnings beats have been below historical averages, but revenue beats have been above that long-term mark, a perhaps promising sign as revenue growth had been slow in recent quarters as companies cut costs to boost profits. With the market's P/E ratio significantly above its historical average of 15, however, investors may need to see a solid jump in profits to justify sending the market any higher.

After hours today, investors were delighted by strong reports from two big brand names. First, Netflix shares spiked 18% as its quarterly report once again blew expectations out of the water, sending the stock to another all-time high near $400. Subscriber growth, a key figure for the video-streaming service, was especially strong, as the company added 2.3 million U.S subscribers in the quarter, bringing the grand domestic total to 33.4 million, or 44.4 million when its international customers are added in. The home-entertainment company saw earnings per share jump more than six times from a year ago, to $0.79 up from $0.13, which easily eclipsed estimates of $0.66. Sales of $1.18 billion were essentially in line with expectations, while the company projected an EPS of $0.78 for the current quarter, also matching expectations. Though this report was certainly good news for Netflix investors, the stock trades at a forward P/E of 100, and it may be worth questioning how long the company can keep up this torrid growth rate, even with its indisputable brand advantage in the video-streaming industry.

Elsewhere, eBay was getting a lift, as the Internet auctioneer saw its shares rise 5% after hours on its earnings report and news that Carl Icahn has acquired a 0.8% stake in the company and is urging it to spin off PayPal, a development that seemed to be the primary reason for the stock's jump. Per-share profits of $0.81 beat estimates by a penny, though guidance for the current quarter disappointed, as the company sees EPS of $0.65-$0.67 on estimates of $0.72. Meanwhile, Icahn said he has nominated two of his employees to serve on eBay's board of directors and that he submitted a proposal to separate the company form PayPal. eBay's board of directors responded by saying it routinely assesses its strategic direction and does not believe that breaking up the company is the best way to maximize shareholder value. Still, Icahn is an investing wizard and a well-known noisemaker on Wall Street, recently making headlines for his demands that Apple buy back $150 billion of its stock, so this is likely not the last time we hear about this proposal.

Netflix isn't done yet
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Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, eBay, Google, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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