By Mitchell Clark, B.Comm.
You know another earnings season is right around the corner because Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) and Adobe Systems Incorporated (NASDAQ:ADBE) always report their fiscal results just ahead of the calendar quarter end.
Both technology stocks are bellwethers, and while they are mature enterprises, they do help set the tone in sentiment. It's exactly what the marketplace needs now so investors can have something else to worry about over geopolitical events.
Oracle has been going through its own issues trying to generate top-line growth. Revenue and earnings the last several quarters have been very modest.
And so have Adobe's numbers, but Wall Street analysts have been boosting their earnings estimates for the company in 2015 and the stock has doubled over the last 18 months.
Oracle is definitely more of a value play, and the company pays a dividend. Adobe is expensively priced and while much smaller, still boasts a stock market capitalization of approximately $34.0 billion.
In previous quarters, it was pretty obvious what the Street was looking for in terms of earnings results. At the beginning of 2013, investors just wanted to know that corporate earnings would hold up. Then they were happy with modest growth so long as dividends were increased.
This quarter, there doesn't seem to be a financial metric that the market is looking for just yet. The choppy trading action is a reflection of all the uncertainty in the world, but also a market that hasn't experienced a material price correction since 2008/2009, which is a long time to go.
As much as a broad stock market correction would be a healthy development for the long-run trend, one isn't likely to happen with continued price strength in many large-cap technology companies, transportation stocks and the Russell 2000 index. (See "If This Indicator Turns, the Stock Market's in Trouble.") No matter what the shock, there is a remarkable resilience to this market and all eventualities are possible.
Earnings results are always relative, but they are important in shaping investor sentiment, even if the numbers aren't all that great. Monetary policy sets the backdrop, and the rest is all about relative valuations and corporate outlooks.
Adobe has been transforming itself into a cloud business, and its numbers reflect some dispositions. The company's earnings came in above expectations. The company's fiscal first quarter of 2014 (ended February 28, 2014) saw sales come in flat at $1.0 billion, but non-GAAP (non-generally accepted accounting principles) earnings per share were $0.30, beating the adjusted estimate of $0.25 a share from Thomson Reuters.
The company bought back 4.5 million of its own common shares during its latest quarter and it finished its fiscal first quarter with 844,000 paid cloud subscribers, up 405,000 over the comparable quarter.
Oracle's earnings were less enthusiastic, and the company didn't quite meet consensus. Fiscal third quarter total sales grew four percent to $9.3 billion. GAAP earnings grew two percent to $2.6 billion, or in earnings-per-share terms, grew eight percent to $0.56.
Non-GAAP earnings (which are what Wall Street forecasts) came in at $0.68, missing the consensus estimate of $0.70.
The numbers were pretty good on their own for such a mature enterprise, but the earnings game is just that.
For an early start to the next reporting season, the numbers from these two companies weren't bad. It's a decent sign for upcoming technology results.