Mon11242014

Business & Real Estate

News of debt deal rejuvenates market

Prodded by a last-minute budget deal in the U.S. Congress Thursday, the stock market rebounded, with the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average surging on news of the federal government dodging default.

With the debt-ceiling crisis in the rearview mirror for now, the focus turns to corporate earnings. More than 140 companies on the S&P 500 are scheduled to report their earnings this week, and the market could assume a different posture.

The third-quarter earnings of big public companies announced so far are unimpressive. Although companies are beating their earnings estimates, it’s largely because they have lowered expectations.

While the lingering effects of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling brinksmanship are likely to weigh on near-term economic numbers, the market needs to look past these hiccups for the third-quarter earnings season to go well.

Two Town Crier “50” companies issued quarterly earnings reports last week.

• IBM Corp. ($173.29; IBM) shares tumbled after the market opened Thursday, hitting a two-year low of $174.53. IBM’s third-quarter revenue dropped, missing Wall Street forecasts by more than $1 billion.

The company reported net income of $4 billion, a 6 percent increase over the same period last year, but the company’s revenue dropped 4 percent to $23.7 billion, falling short of expectations.

The revenue shortfall prompted analysts to offer new price targets for the stock. A Jefferies analyst backed his hold rating but cut his price target to $190, while a Citicorp analyst maintained his buy rating but lowered his price target by $15. Barclays downgraded its rating from overweight to equal weight, reducing its low target price to $175.

• Intel Corp. (INTC; $24.06) released its third-quarter results last week. Despite beating expectations on a modest level, the current-quarter revenue outlook fell short and the company warned of delays with production of its upcoming Broadwell processors.

The company’s $3 billion profit was down 1 percent from a year ago, and sales of $13.5 billion were up a fraction at 58 cents per share. Analysts had predicted 53 cents per share on sales of $13.47 billion.

The world’s top chipmaker expects that the current Haswell PC processor, with improved battery life, will boost sales for the rest of 2013 but noted that preparations for the Broadwell chip are lagging.

Intel’s earnings are regarded as a barometer of the overall tech industry’s health. The chipmaker’s problems result from declining PC sales, the source of two-thirds of its revenue. Worldwide PC shipments in the third quarter fell 8.6 percent from last year.

In his third-quarter report, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich promised that sales of inexpensive tablets and computers would dominate the holiday season.

Intel’s upgrade and downgrade history is primarily a hold, with a few analysts deeming the stock an outperform. The median target price is $23, with a high of $30. The dividend yield is 3.9 percent.

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