MSFT reported a strong 1Q17 after the close last night.
Revenue was up +3% (non-GAAP) year on year. Operating income was flat, on the same basis, and net up +6%. EPS was up by +9%, at $.76, exceeding the high end of the expectations of the thirty-odd professional sell side analysts who follow the company.
Growth businesses, like the cloud or the Surface line of laptop/tablet hybrids, were up strongly. Legacy businesses held their own. Guidance is for a flattish 2Q17.
In many ways, the MSFT report is similar to the Intel (INTC) results from the night before. Guidance for both companies appeared roughly the same, as well–more or less flat quarter on quarter performance, during a period that’s typically seasonally strong.
The reaction in the press and in the stock price for MSFT, however, was strongly positive. The stock was up by 4%+ when the results were made public …and by more than that after the conference call. As I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, MSFT is holding onto almost all of its after-hours gain during a down day on Wall Street.
INTC, in contrast, fell at all three waypoints–announcement, conference call, next-day trading.
Part of the contrast in stock performance has to do with the differing nature of the two companies’ businesses, hardware vs. software. Part is a function of the greater speed at which MSFT has been able to demonstrate that it is turning itself around.
On the other hand, I find it noteworthy that there should be a 10% relative performance difference in two days between the two behemoths who were once the constituents of the former Wintel alliance–and on bottom lines that, if we removed the company names, don’t look all that different.
The rest, of course, must represent two different sets of expectations. I hold both stocks, which I’ve been studying for over a quarter century (and which I find a little scary). My expectations aren’t that different.
I’m not simply grousing about being wrong aobut INTC. I think of investing in the stock market as somewhat like playing a game whose rules each player has to figure out as play progresses. I’ve often likened the difference between investing in, say, the UK or Japan vs. the US as like that between playing checkers or Sorry and playing chess.
I have a hunch that in reports like these we’re seeing evidence of a change in how the stock market game will be played in the US in the future. If so, it will be important to catch on to the new state of things as soon as possible.