Investors were in a good mood on Friday, dismissing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and retaining confidence that government efforts to stimulate economic growth will eventually prevail. The Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 1.07%) finished the day up around 1%, slightly lagging other major market benchmarks but still putting in a solid performance. With the move, the Nasdaq is about 2% below its all-time high heading into the weekend.
There were two candidates for the biggest surprise among top Nasdaq stocks on Friday. For me, seeing networking pioneer Cisco Systems (CSCO 0.56%) jump more than 7% was a nice reminder of what the leadership in the tech sector used to look like. Meanwhile, though, some were probably less than impressed with the performance of Zoom Video Communications (ZM -1.09%), which gave up ground in an environment in which one might have expected big gains.
Cisco roars back
Cisco's fiscal first-quarter financial report put the company back in the spotlight. Having been the most valuable company on the Nasdaq briefly during the tech boom in early 2000, Cisco's return to glory came in the midst of a turnaround effort for the networking giant.
To be clear, Cisco's numbers weren't exactly impressive at first glance. Revenue fell 9% from year-ago levels, and earnings per share were down 10% year over year even after adjusting for some extraordinary items. Yet the company did report a 14% rise in operating cash flow, a move that helped to strengthen its balance sheet and set the stage for continuing return of capital to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks.
Yet most of those following Cisco had expected for it to take the company longer to get to this point in its recovery efforts. Moreover, guidance for fiscal second-quarter revenue to come in flat to down just 2% was better than the consensus forecast, as was earnings guidance.
Cisco has plenty of competition now from younger, more nimble rivals. However, the latest news shows that Cisco is finding ways to hold its own against the competition.
On the other side of the coin, shares of Zoom fell almost 6%. The video collaboration stock has been extremely volatile ever since news broke of a potential coronavirus vaccine candidate and its favorable study results.
Few people dispute the amazing growth trajectory that Zoom has been on. The unexpected need for remote communication due to the pandemic came out of nowhere, and Zoom took full advantage of the opportunity. Even now, many foresee that Zoom will be a staple of ordinary life even once the coronavirus crisis is over.
The question, though, is whether Zoom's valuation already takes all that future growth into account. To maximize its future sales, Zoom will have to keep a lot of the customers it has picked up during the pandemic, and it will also have to broaden its scope to include some related services in adjacent markets. If it's successful, then that will help Zoom keep up the pace of sales gains that investors demand -- and keep the tech stock rising over time.
Investors should be prepared to see Zoom rise and fall as news about the evolving status of the pandemic comes out. In the long run, though, Zoom is setting itself up to be a big part of people's lives well into the future.
More surprises ahead
For my money, I found the Cisco rise more surprising than the Zoom decline. But regardless of which one you found more worthy of notice, there'll undoubtedly be more surprises next week and beyond.