The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was struggling to hold onto a small 0.05% gain on Wednesday at 1:25 p.m. EST. While there's no significant trade war or economic news, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump as soon as Wednesday evening.
Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) were unable to hold their ground, slumping as reviews for the latest Star Wars film came in. Meanwhile, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock managed to rise slightly, even after reports that Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google was planning to double down on its cloud business.
The latest Star Wars film gets mixed reviews
Disney has already released six movies this year that have topped $1 billion each at the global box office: Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel, Aladdin, and most recently Frozen 2. The company is making one last stab at another blockbuster with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which releases on Friday.
The new Star Wars film may eventually cross the $1 billion mark as well, just as The Last Jedi did in 2017. But the going might be a little tough, given the initial reviews. The Rise of Skywalker currently has a critical score of 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, as reviews from critics come in mixed. (The Last Jedi fared better with critics, receiving mostly positive reviews.)
Of course, there may be little correlation between what critics think and how fans ultimately react. Despite the lukewarm reception, this new Star Wars movie will likely be another huge hit for Disney, based on the strength of the franchise.
Disney stock was down 0.8%, underperforming the broader market by a wide margin. While the weak reviews aren't great news for the company, it will close out the year with a record-breaking haul at the box office; its movies have already generated over $10 billion in ticket sales this year.
Disney's streaming service is also doing well. The Disney+ app has now been downloaded to a mobile device 22 million times since it launched in November, according to Apptopia, a sign that the service is having no problem winning over consumers.
While Disney is having a down day, the stock is still up about 34% for the year.
Microsoft's cloud business eyed by Google
Microsoft has managed to carve out a solid No. 2 position in the market for cloud infrastructure, behind Amazon Web Services. Its Azure cloud platform is growing at a blistering pace, and in October the software giant managed to snag the coveted $10 billion JEDI contract from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Google is a smaller cloud player, but the company has eyes on Microsoft's position. Google has set a 2023 deadline to become the No. 1 or No. 2 provider of cloud infrastructure, according to The Information. This comes after management considered abandoning the cloud business altogether, due to concerns about profitability.
To achieve that goal, Google will need to expand its sales and marketing efforts substantially, which means higher costs and lower profits in the short run. Microsoft has the advantage of a large base of enterprise customers that already use some of its products. Google doesn't have that to nearly the same degree.
Winning market share may also require Google to get very aggressive on price, which could trigger a price war and lead to price cuts from both Microsoft and Amazon. That could hurt the profitability of both companies' respective cloud divisions.
How serious Google is about winning in the cloud remains to be seen. The company will likely have a tough time differentiating its cloud offerings from the competition, which is why aggressive pricing may be table stakes for the tech giant. Google could conceivably offer the commodity components of cloud infrastructure -- virtual servers and storage -- at rock-bottom prices, and try to make money on higher-value services like databases. But the company's exact strategy at this point remains unclear.
Shares of Microsoft weren't hurt by the news -- they're up 0.2%. But if Google does successfully start picking up market share, a cloud slowdown for Microsoft could eventually take a toll on the stock.