Netflix Trips, TI Slips, Wal-Mart Nips

How fitting is it that Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) shares should take a hit the day before Cloverfield hits the mailboxes of many of its subscribers?

The DVD rental specialist fared a whole lot better than Manhattan did in the theatrical thriller. Netflix had a healthy quarterly report and even upped its year-end subscriber target, but that wasn't enough for investors, who sent the stock lower last night after the company's first-quarter report.

The quarter fell in line with Wall Street's expectations, with earnings, revenue, and subscribers climbing 36%, 8%, and 21% respectively. Subscriber growth outpaced the top line because of membership cost reductions last summer. Margins improved despite the rollback, hence the buoyant bottom-line spurt.

With churn and subscriber acquisition costs clocking in lower, Netflix is doing all the right things. The problem is that the stock has been hitting new highs lately. That comes with unspoken expectations.

The company's new guidance is projecting 9.1 million to 9.7 million members on its rolls by year's end. This is the second time that Netflix has raised its guidance this year. Unfortunately, it's also the second time that Netflix has upped the account tally, slightly raised its revenue target, but left its net income figure intact.

News to go
They may like 'em big in Texas, but they're going to have to settle for small in Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN  ) . The chip maker saw its first-quarter revenue climb just 3% higher over last year's showing, but fall by 8% sequentially. Texas points to strength in its high-performance analog semiconductors, but a 20% improvement there only hammers home how poorly the company is doing elsewhere. Margins did improve, propping profits higher, but the company's second-quarter outlook is bracing investors for another ho-hum period of meager sequential gains, if that.

DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) topped its bottom-line target this morning, with earnings soaring 22% higher to $1.31 a share. Weakness in the chemical giant's construction and motor vehicle products was more than offset by strength overseas and with its agricultural and nutritional lines. I guess being a diversified conglomerate pays. That's "the point" of DuPont. 

Shine on, Sam Walton. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) claimed top honors on the annual Fortune 500 list yesterday. The world's leading retailer narrowly edged out ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) for the pole position, but that is only because the Fortune list ranks contenders by revenue instead of profits. Given the razor-thin margins of discount retailing, Wal-Mart wouldn't have even cracked the top five if the list was based on the bottom line instead of the top.

Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX  ) came through with better-than-expected first-quarter results. Revenue may have clocked in flat at just more than $2 billion for the biotech company, but adjusted earnings of $0.24 a share came in well ahead of last year's profitability, as well as the $0.11 a share that Mr. Market was expecting. What is it with Boston-based sports teams and Boston-named companies winning so much lately?

Is Rupert Murdoch's back against the Wall -- as in The Wall Street Journal? Managing editor Marcus Brauchli is stepping down, just a year into his tenure and a mere four months since News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) completed its Dow Jones acquisition, according to several media sources. Even if the resignation is considered amicable, it's easy to be skeptical of key changes that take place after a takeover. Let's just hope that News Corp. isn't expecting its Journal execs to maintain profile pages on MySpace or to submit their likenesses to be used as The Simpsons characters.

Oh, and happy Earth Day. If you don't have time to plant a tree, at least do your best to avoid running into one.

Have a great day out there.


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