The stock market continued its pullback on Tuesday, as investors started to move away from their ultra-optimistic assessment of how 2021 was likely to go. A steady surge of COVID-19 cases in India had some economists worrying that the global recovery might be in jeopardy from coronavirus variants and mutations, and that was enough to send the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.06%), S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.17%), and Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.55%) lower on the day. Small-cap stocks saw even bigger losses, reflecting fear that a slowdown could affect the U.S. as well.


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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

As bad as the drop during the regular trading session was, it paled in comparison to the big hit that video streaming specialist Netflix (NFLX -0.86%) suffered after the market closed, as investors reacted to earnings results. But Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 0.03%) managed to provide some relief with a more positive set of numbers from the beginning of 2021, and that might prove enough to stem a loss of investor confidence when the market opens Wednesday.

No safety net for Netflix

Shares of Netflix were down a bit less than 1% in the regular trading session on Tuesday in advance of its first-quarter earnings release. But as of 4:30 p.m. EDT, the streaming video company's shares were down more than 11% in after-hours trading.

Office building with Netflix banner in the entryway.

Image source: Netflix.

At first glance, Netflix's numbers wouldn't seem to justify this level of negative response. Revenue growth came in at 24%, accelerating from the fourth quarter's 22% year-over-year sales gain. Net income more than doubled from year-ago levels, although a substantial portion of that rise came from a one-time foreign exchange adjustment.

What sent shareholders into panic, though, was a dramatic slowdown in the number of new subscribers Netflix brought on during the period. The company now has 207.6 million subscribers, but that was up by less than 4 million from three months ago. Moreover, Netflix sees that growth rate continuing to slow, and it set second-quarter guidance that predicted only 1 million more new Netflix viewers between April and June.

Netflix remains upbeat about its future, which still looks attractive over the long run. However, those hoping for a quick pop in the stock were sorely disappointed, and the company's consolidation after an extremely strong 2020 might take longer than many had hoped.

A healthy quarter for Intuitive Surgical

Meanwhile, shares of Intuitive Surgical picked up nearly 4% in the after-hours trading session. The robotic surgical system provider had a strong quarter to start 2021.

Revenue at Intuitive Surgical climbed 18% year over year to $1.29 billion. That helped boost adjusted net income by 32%. The company saw extremely strong sales of its da Vinci surgical systems, shipping nearly 300 of them in the first three months of 2021. Intuitive is gaining traction with some creative ways of selling systems, with more than 40% of its shipments this quarter coming through usage-based and operating-lease arrangements.

Intuitive Surgical is seeing ongoing growth in use of its systems as well. Worldwide procedures using the da Vinci jumped 16% from year-ago levels. Revenue from instruments and accessories climbed 14%, and that's a more reliable indicator of recurring sales from use of the systems.

With 6,142 systems installed worldwide, Intuitive Surgical already has impressive penetration in the robotic surgery market. The company remains a leading provider, and that should help investors stay confident in Intuitive Surgical's future for years to come.

Don't panic

A big miss from Netflix could send tremors through the market in the short run. But its growth issues are its own, and you shouldn't jump to conclusions about the broader market as a result.