As investors close the door on the year that was, some of Wall Street's biggest technology companies are gearing up to announce their last financial results of calendar 2019.
The technology mavens that represent the vaunted FAANG acronym -- Facebook (META -0.90%), Amazon.com (AMZN 1.19%), Apple (AAPL 1.99%), Netflix (NFLX -0.38%), and Google's parent company Alphabet (GOOGL 1.50%) (GOOG 1.53%) -- are among the most highly watched stocks. The three that were most successful in 2019 are all scheduled to report earnings in the coming two weeks.
Let's review what investors will be watching when Netflix, Apple, and Facebook pull back the curtain on their latest quarterly results.
A make-or-break quarter?
As in quarters past, subscriber growth will be in the spotlight when Netflix reports earnings after the market close on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The streaming giant has reported back-to-back quarters of net subscriber additions that missed internal forecasts, so investors are keen to see Netflix regain its mojo, as the company has -- more often than not -- surpassed its own subscriber goals.
Slowing domestic growth was also a drag on the company through most of 2019, but Netflix came roaring back late in the year, with its stock gaining more than 30% since it bottomed in late September. The company released a more detailed breakdown of its growth in international markets, which highlighted the massive opportunity overseas, as well as providing color to the average revenue per user (ARPU) for each of the new reporting regions. Recent strong content releases and awards-season buzz have also helped buoy the stock.
For the fourth quarter, Netflix forecast revenue growth of 30% year over year, while subscribers are expected to increase by more than 19%. The company is also guiding for profits to soar 73%, and operating margins to jump 350 basis points to 8.7%.
A turnaround in China
Slowing iPhone sales are becoming less of a concern as high-growth segments like services and wearables increasingly take center stage. This new reality helped send Apple's stock soaring in 2019; it gained more than 86%. That doesn't mean investors won't be keeping an eagle eye on sales of the iconic device, which appears poised to return to growth sometime early this year. iPhone sales posted uncharacteristic declines in each of the four fiscal quarters of 2019, primarily because of economic weakness in China -- Apple's second-largest market.
iPhone sales appear to have hit a turning point -- reports suggest they soared in December. This will also be the first full quarter of sales for the iPhone 11, which has generated strong demand from Apple fans. Combined with continued momentum from Apple's other high-growth segments, this could produce the company's best results in more than a year. Apple forecast revenue growth of between 1% and 6% for its fiscal 2020 first quarter -- even before the iPhone gained increased traction in the Middle Kingdom.
Apple is scheduled to report after the market close on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
Shaking off regulatory worries
Facebook has been a roller-coaster ride for investors, falling precipitously in 2018 in the wake of consumer privacy scandals, followed by fines imposed by a variety of regulatory bodies. As calls for increased regulation have quieted in recent months, however, the stock has come roaring back, gaining more than 56% in 2019 -- nearly double the returns of the S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.07%), and recently topping new all-time highs.
That wasn't the only reason Facebook rallied last year. The tech giant beat expectations in each of the first three quarters in 2019, reassuring investors that its growth was far from over. Facebook added 100 million daily active users over the previous 12 months, while the number of users who accessed the platform monthly increased by 129 million; each was an increase of about 6% year over year.
Management set a low bar for the fourth quarter on Facebook's Q3 conference call. It expects a more pronounced deceleration of its revenue growth from the third quarter to the fourth, slowing to year-over-year growth of between 20% and 24%.
Facebook is scheduled to report after the market close on Wednesday, Jan. 29.