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Another day, another tale of European woes. At issue today were worries over the fate of the European Union itself, with reports out of Germany stating that a plan might be in the works for countries to leave the euro while maintaining EU membership.
Even after October's furious rally, the Nasdaq's loss of 3.9% today puts the index back in the red for the year. However, while broader macroeconomic pain led to a sea of red across the technology sector, there was plenty of news among today's carnage, and even a few winners.
Tech News No. 1: Earnings Season Marches On
There were a number of high-profile tech companies reporting earnings last night and after markets closed tonight.
- Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) continued its comeback tour today. After the bell, it reported earnings that exceeded expectations. Revenues ticked up 4.7% over last year, which is a notable improvement from last quarter's 3.3% top-line jump. In after-hours trading, Cisco's up 4%.
The hypergrowth days of Cisco might be over, but the company isn't priced for huge amounts of growth, either. This summer, Cisco scaled back its aggressive sales targets in favor of a more conservative 5% to 7% annual revenue growth plan. Expectations for Cisco are low enough that if it can just hit the upper range of that target in the coming years, it should continue smoking lowered expectations from the Street.
- Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI ) delivered solid earnings last night and also successfully rolled out its latest edition of the blockbuster Call of Duty franchise. So why did investors send shares 6.5% lower this morning? One troubling metric in Activision's earnings was that subscribers to its valuable World of Warcraf, or WoW, role-playing game dropped by 800,000 from their July total. That's a 7% decline from last quarter alone.
Investors are right to be fixated on WoW. While Call of Duty might get most the attention surrounding Activision Blizzard these days, the recurring monthly fees the game provides are a powerful source of continual cash flow for the company. It essentially buffers Activision from a hit-driven industry.
However, it's worth noting that WoW sales dropped 6% versus last quarter on an adjusted basis (basically removing how companies account for sales over a long period), which is slightly lower than the subscriber loss. That's in large part because subscriber defections were skewed toward the Asian market, where WoW drives company results. Acitivision saw Asian sales off by an adjusted 26% from last quarter! The other company to watch following Activision's earnings release might be NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES ) , which operates WoW in China. NetEase is much more than a one-trick pony, but WoW is still an important franchise for the company, and it appears to be struggling in China.
- Computer Sciences Corp. (NYSE: CSC ) dropped 15% today after it announced a drastic downward revision to its earnings guidance for the year. Trading at less than 7 times adjusted trailing earnings, CSC is a deep value that's hard to ignore. However, investors shouldn't take today's warning lightly. While investors might lick their chops at the company's backlog of $36 billion -- and the inherent stability that provides -- huge exposure to the public sector also means trailing results might not be the best indicator of its future.
Tech News No. 2: OK, Apple, You Win
Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) has pretty much thrown in the towel in its long-running mobile battle with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) by announcing that it will cease development on Flash for mobile devices. Flash is a minor revenue contributor for Adobe, but it's also a product that was previously envisioned as the next-generation mobile platform. Not only that, but Flash authoring tools are also a big part of other products Adobe sells.
At this point, the path is clear for HTML5 to dominate the next generation of multimedia on the Web. Adobe closed the day down nearly 8%.
Tech News No. 3: The Next Jump in Mobile Devices
The drumbeat of progress in mobile devices continues, with NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) officially launching its Tegra 3 processor. Tegra 3 presents huge performance gains compared with its predecessor, thanks to its quad-core architecture (Tegra 2 was dual-core). However, it's not all a performance game with mobile -- consumers also want devices that don't power down after a couple hours of use -- and Tegra delivers the goods in that department as well. The processor comes with a fifth core to handle more basic tasks that leaves its more power-hungry brethren idle. The end result? NVIDIA claims that power consumption is reduced 61% versus its last generation processor.
With Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) and Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) shortly behind in introducing their next-generation processors, it's important for NVIDIA to maintain a lead-in time to market in the mobile processor wars. Now, if tablets not branded with an Apple logo could just take off in the coming months, that'd be the perfect catalyst in getting NVIDIA to its lofty goal of $1 billion in Tegra sales next fiscal year.
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