A strong series of earnings from major tech companies overnight will do little to dim the enthusiasm of the runaway markets we are currently experiencing.
A pandemic trifecta of a boom in PC sales, surging demand for video gaming and increased usage of Microsoft’s cloud services won the Windows and Xbox maker a 17 per cent surge in revenues, to $43.1bn in the final quarter of 2020.
Microsoft also pointed to signs of a return to more normal IT buying patterns after nearly a year of crisis spending, in which customers turned away from longer-term projects to focus on the emergency purchases to keep their workers connected and businesses ticking, reports Richard Waters.
It predicted another quarter of 17 per cent growth, beating the 11 per cent Wall Street had been forecasting. Its shares hit an all-time high on the news.
Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices reported revenues rose 53 per cent to $3.2bn in the fourth quarter, beating analysts’ forecasts of $3.0bn. Chief executive Lisa Su said: “All of our businesses are firing on all cylinders,” with its processors being used in PCs, cloud servers and the latest generation of games consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
Meanwhile, Texas Instruments reported “a strong [December] quarter driven by strong demand in automotive, industrial and personal electronics” for its semiconductors. It beat Wall Street expectations with a bullish forecast for the current quarter.
After the closing bell in New York this evening, Facebook, Apple and Tesla will be reporting. Patrick McGee says Apple is expected to post its first-ever $100bn-revenue quarter, assuming iPhone sales will have grown 6 per cent on a year earlier.
As part of our Runaway Markets series, we look today at how Wall Street is divided between those warning of a “bubble” and those re-evaluating traditional assumptions about how best to value a business. Also, a deep dive on the “weaponised” options trading that is part of Gamestop’s turbocharged rally.
1. JPMorgan plans UK digital bank this yearGoldman Sachs was first with its Marcus online-only bank launch in the UK in 2018, but JPMorgan is now following suit with its Chase brand. While Marcus confined itself to savings accounts, Chase promises a “new take on current accounts”. Meanwhile, Jemima Kelly has been looking at Revolut’s attempt at becoming a bank and the deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China writes for us on fintech risk and regulation.
2. Chinese tech’s foreign retrenchmentAnt Group, Alibaba’s digital payments arm, is planning to sell EyeVerify, the US-based biometric security firm it bought in 2016, amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington. TikTok has announced it will lay off hundreds of workers in India after its efforts to restore its banned app there failed. Richard Milne comments on why Sweden’s Ericsson chose to square up to its own government to support its rival Huawei
3. Apple shifting production out of ChinaApple is accelerating its supply chain diversification out of China, according to Nikkei Asia and reported in our #techAsia newsletter. It is shifting production of its iPhones to India and, for the first time, manufacturing iPads in Vietnam, say sources.
4. Walmart’s robot warehouse moveWalmart is planning to set up small local warehouses staffed with robots to handle surging online orders, stepping up competition with Amazon as both companies seek to cut delivery time and costs by moving logistics closer to where customers live.
5. Unacceptable face of facial-recognition hiringThe use of facial recognition technology to hire and fire people based on their moods, personality or level of engagement in the workplace should be outlawed, according to proposals to be unveiled on Thursday by the 47-country Council of Europe.
Sony has failed to make much of an impression as a mass-market smartphone maker, so perhaps this handset for professionals is the way to go. At $2,500, the Xperia PRO is certainly beyond ordinary consumers’ budgets and Sony is pushing its 5G and HDMI connectivity as a way for it to be used as an external monitor for cameras, with footage able to be streamed or filed rapidly over the mobile network. The Verge reports it launches in the US today, but there are no plans for a European debut.