Google Slays, Nintendo Plays, Microsoft Pays

Oh, you're good, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) .

You saw analysts crush their own profit targets over the past few months, and you kept a straight face. Since you don't provide guidance, there's never a need for the occasional "you're getting colder" nudge when the pros go astray.

And boy, did analysts ever go astray. The leading search engine blew away expectations last night, with revenue climbing 42% and earnings handily topping expectations in a huge quarter. The robust showing was enough to send Google shares barreling past the $500 mark in after-hours trading last night.

Google's lead-generating prowess is pretty good in these uncertain times, when you consider that paid clicks came in 20% higher year over year. Pair up that showing with the even healthier revenue gains, and one can assume that advertisers are paying more for those clicks.

This is a rosy scenario for a company that was starting to feel mortal, after some unflattering third-party market research and uncharacteristic quarterly flops. Few people were still granting superhero status to the company whose stock peaked above $740 some five months ago. But clearly, Big G still knows where its cape is.

News to go
Another month, another win for Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY). According to industry-watcher NPD Group, the Japanese video game giant moved 721,000 Wii units in March, enough to make Wii the top-selling console in the United States. Nintendo also scored the top game title with last month's debut of Super Smash Brothers for the Wii. The cartoon fighting game sold 2.7 million copies. Will the PS3 or Xbox 360 ever start gaining ground on Nintendo's addictive system? If not, can their makers start a "Wii Surrender" campaign?

Its robotic arms are already revolutionizing the way surgeons operate, so what operating-table feat can Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  ) pull off next? Yesterday's quarterly report was more of the same, with results easily breezing past profit expectations. The company must be doing something right to have revenue and earnings climb 54% and 88% higher, respectively. It has now beaten Wall Street's guesstimates for 22 consecutive quarters. So why did the stock head lower last night? With the shares tickling new highs, and investors spoiled by consistent target-topping, many onlookers were apparently holding out for even more.

You go, E*Trade Baby! E*Trade (Nasdaq: ETFC  ) posted a first-quarter loss last night, but that news was offset by the gain of 62,000 net new accounts during the period. Those who feared that the discount broker would have trouble attracting new clients after last year's mortgage woes can rest easily. I guess those clever television ads are working.

Are you a (small-f) fool for the Citi? Let's hope not. Saddled with writedowns, Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) posted a $5.1 billion loss this morning, and revenue fell a sharp 48% to $13.2 billion. The news sounds grim, but investors were already braced for it. An optimist would look at areas of strength, including the improvements at Smith Barney and in transaction services and international retail banking. But a pessimist just needs to look at the stock chart, where Citi has shed more than half of its value over the past year. 

And finally: Coffee, tea, or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) ? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the software giant is paying $115 million for travel website Farecast, which helps visitors predict fare-price trends on certain airlines. Here are a few other things Microsoft probably hopes Farecast can predict:

  • Will the Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) bid go up or down?
  • Can Xbox 360 games play on the Wii if the Wii keeps winning market share?
  • What will it take for Vista to stick with people?
  • Will the "I'm a PC" guy ever just flat-out deck the "I'm a Mac" guy?

Have a great day out there.

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