Tech Check

Tech Earnings: Week that Was And Week That Will Be (Apple)

Tech earnings for the week are in the books and we now all get to look ahead to Apple Inc.'s  earnings next Wednesday. But reading the tea leaves from some of the biggest names reporting this week may signal a pretty good uptick in tech. And despite NASDAQ's declines today, some positive trends are developing that may signal a nice opportunity for investors.

Intel,IBM,Advanced Micro Devices, Microsoft and eBay all offered optimistic outlooks for the back half of 2007. And in the cases of Microsoft and eBay, there's optimism well into 2008. So while many investors focus on the day-to-day vagaries at these names, analysts say a longer term perspectives--even if for just a couple of quarters--may serve their portfolios well.

It's easy to take Google's  news and paint all of tech with the same kind of concerns. But that would be a mistake. Google missed its expectations, but remember that the company doesn't offer any guidance, which means the expectations Wall Street puts together come from the company's historical performance and not necessarily from what the company says it anticipates. The Street is famous for the axiom that past performance is no guarantee of future returns. And that applies here. Couple that with the "law of large numbers" and it gets more and more difficult for Google to continue to wow Wall Street. But by any other measure, other than Google's comparisons to itself, the company's earnings were staggering.

This company continues to grow, albeit slightly slower than in quarters past. Yet the growth is still far outpacing any other rival in its sector. And for those who say the company is "priced to perfection" and can't afford missed expectations, just remember that Google's share price is relative. It's still cheaper, based on its PE, than Yahoo , and Google is growing six times faster. Priced to perfection? Not really.

As for Apple next week? Strap in for a wild ride. Piper Jaffray is out with a note this morning, raising its target to $205, based on the revenue-sharing model with AT&T connected to the iPhone that the firm put together. Apple blew through another all-time high today on that news. Apple reports Wednesday. But AT&T comes out the day before. Watch T's numbers carefully. If the company breaks out iPhone sales, it'll serve as a nice metric for Apple's earnings the following day. Apple shares are up 17% over the past month alone and the pressure on Apple to justify that run-up with a good quarter, and even better guidance, is enormous. That could be a tough trick for a company normally used to sandbagging guidance to keep expectations in check.

The Street's looking for 72 cents a share on $5.29 billion; both categories up sharply from the same period a year ago. A half million iPhones sold (even though it was only sale for two days during the quarter; 1.6 million Macs; 10 million iPods. Keep those figures handy.

Meantime, there are a number of factors juicing tech. IDC and Gartner both saw PC shipments last quarter exceed expectations, up about 12%. Wireless continues to soar. Tech might still be a stock-pickers' sector; but there seems to be a lot more choices now than just a few quarters ago.

Questions?  Comments?