Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) has become this year's tech comeback story. The social-media platform is so hot that on Friday it ended a streak of 12 consecutive trading days of higher closing prices. Twitter's stock is trading north of $20, the first time it's snapped out of the teens since early October.
This is the kind of momentum that could be dangerous for a stock that's spent most of its three years as a public company out of favor before sprouting in recent weeks. It faces a big test on Thursday morning, when it has to justify its recent pop with its second-quarter results.
Investors holding out for a period of growth to match Twitter's stock action will probably be disappointed. Analysts expect revenue of $536.6 million, 11% less than it rang up a year earlier. They also see Twitter posting a profit of $0.05 a share, less than half of the $0.13 it earned a year ago. A silver lining on the earnings front is that Twitter has consistently landed well ahead of where the Wall Street pros are perched.
Twitter's been going through some growing pains as it tries to monetize its traffic. Twitter itself didn't provide revenue guidance, but it did warn back in April that it continues to expect advertising growth to continue to meaningfully lag audience growth. Profitability has been held back as Twitter invests in video content and a marketing platform that may take some time to truly pay off.
This will be Twitter's second consecutive quarter of year-over-year revenue declines. The stock is rallying even as both ends of the income statement go the wrong way, suggesting that the market is eyeing other metrics in gauging Twitter's success.
One trend working in Twitter's favor is that engagement is improving. Daily active users have grown from a 3% clip five quarters ago, accelerating to 5%, 7%, 11%, and 14% in subsequent quarters.
Twitter's monthly active users haven't been keeping pace, up 6% over the past year to 328 million as of the end of March. However, if you wanted to have one metric growing faster than the other, it would be daily active users over monthly active users. With the stock moving higher and analysts putting out encouraging notes, the expectations are understandably high heading into Thursday morning's report.
Twitter's starting to claw its way back to its 2014 IPO price, and if it wants to continue to stay out of the teens this time, it will have to exceed the seemingly scaled-back expectations.