Amazon , Apple and Oracle should offer investors some relief from the gathering economic gloom over the next few months, say analysts, pointing to the companies’ downturn-busting credentials.
Weak consumer spending, a stateside debt crisis and European economic jitters have certainly taken their toll on tech stocks, pushing the Nasdaq down more than 5 per cent this year. Experts, however, expect great things from Amazon, Apple and Oracle during the final quarter of 2011.
A tight spending climate, for example, plays neatly to Amazon’s strengths, while Apple will be basking in the warm glow from its latest, greatest iPhone, not to mention its rapidly growing presence in China.
Oracle, on the other hand, is a past master at dodging economic bullets, a useful skill in this environment. “They have survived many times before,” notes Richard Davis, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity. “I think that they are in a better position [than most other tech companies]”
Read on for more details on each of these stocks, which may offer upside during the fourth quarter.
“It’s typically a very strong quarter for Amazon,” explained Charles King, president of tech research firm Pund-IT of the final calendar quarter of the year. “And I think that with the continued economic pain that the country is going through, as people do their holiday shopping, I think that Amazon will be the first place for them to look.”
Last year’s fourth quarter was indeed a successful one for the Seattle-based Internet giant, which grew its net sales by a massive 36 per cent compared to the prior year’s quarter. Investors clearly warmed to the company during this period, pushing its shares up an impressive 17 per cent between Oct. 1 and the end of December 2010, a start contrast to predominantly brick-and-mortar bookselling rival Barnes & Noble , whose stock plunged more than 12 per cent during the same period.
King also feels that Amazon’s imminent entry into the tablet market, where it is expected to launch a challenger to Apple’s iPad, bodes well for investors.
“From all rumours and expectations, the company will have its new tablet/hybridized Kindle sometime before the holidays,” he told TheStreet. “That would really set tongues wagging about the company in a good way.”
Amazon, which is currently trading around $230, also has an attractive valuation, according to Sandeep Aggarwal, an analyst at Digital Route. “Internet stocks have become very cheap now,” he said. “On the large cap side, we like Amazon but also rival eBay .”
There are plenty of catalysts for Apple’s stock during the coming months, most notably the imminent iPhone 5, which should help the tech giant shine through the gloom.
“We believe recent macroeconomic uncertainty has had surprisingly little impact on Apple’s revenue and profit momentum,” explained Bill Shope, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, in a recent note. “Apple’s increasing competitive momentum and compelling new products (next-gen iPhone, iOS 5, iPods, and iCloud in coming weeks and iPad 3 in early 2012) should drive continued outperformance in the shares.”
Shope, who has a Buy rating on Apple, is particularly bullish on the new iPhone’s prospects. “The December quarter could be one for the record books,” he explained, raising his shipment forecast from 26.33 million to 26.79 million.
Apple, which eschewed its traditional summer iPhone launch in favor of a fall extravaganza, should easily outshine last year’s iPhone 4 launch, adds Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities.
“We believe the international ramp will be faster versus the iPhone 4,” he explained. “The carrier base is now larger, at 228 relationships as of July, while we expect China to play a more important role this time around.”
Wall Street, however, will be closely monitoring the performance of new Apple CEO Tim Cook who, as the successor to Steve Jobs, has an unusually tough act to follow.
Apple’s stock nonetheless hit new highs recently as investors savor the prospect of another round of shiny new gadgetry.
“With our global checks indicating strong demand trends for Apple products, we anticipate continued strong growth trends for Apple,” explained Michael Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, in a note released this week. “Apple remains a top pick.”
One of tech’s most durable companies, Oracle deserves plenty of investor attention, say analysts, citing the database giant’s performance during previous downturns.
“In the intermediate term, I think they are extremely well positioned,” Richard Davis, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, told TheStreet. “In the ‘98 crash they didn’t get hurt and in the Internet bubble they didn’t miss a beat.”
Specifically, Oracle’s ability to tap recurring revenue is a major asset in a weak economy, according to Davis. “They have a lot of maintenance revenue,” he said. “That will help them.”
Oracle’s recent first-quarter numbers certainly attest to the firm’s robustness. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based firm navigated both a tough macro environment and its typically weak first quarter to bust out solid results.
“Now that we are past the seasonally difficult fiscal first quarter, we reiterate our ‘outperform’ view of Oracle shares,” explained Brad Zelnick, an analyst at Macquarie Securities, in a recent note, nodding to the company’s execution and the strength of its products. “While we contend that IT spending is decelerating, we believe Oracle is better positioned than most to endure it.”
Oracle says that it is even enjoying strong demand on the other side of the Atlantic, no mean feat in a jittery European economy. “I felt that we had just a solid quarter in Europe,” said Oracle president Mark Hurd during the firm’s recent first-quarter conference call. “We’re hiring in Europe right now, we’re adding to our sales team – we think there’s more market to cover.”
While Oracle’s software sales, however, have been robust, investors will be keen to see how the tech bellwether refreshes its hardware business during the coming months. CEO Larry Ellison has already promised an increased focus on high-margin, high-end servers, as evidenced by the company’s launch of new SPARC servers earlier this week.
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