Why Apple and Microsoft are Rising as Electronic Arts Falls

Shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Electronic Arts were among the most active tech stocks on Wednesday.

Sam Mattera
Sam Mattera
Jul 23, 2014 at 11:30AM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) had shed nine points as of 11:36 a.m. EDT Wednesday. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) both moved to the upside, while shares of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) declined.

Apple surges on better profitability
Apple shares rose more than 3% by late morning following a strong earnings report. Although Apple's quarterly revenue came in a bit lighter than expected ($37.43 billion vs. the $38 billion estimate), its earnings per share exceeded the consensus figure ($1.28 vs. $1.23).

Apple sold 35.2 million iPhones, 13.3 million iPads, and 4.4 million Macs in the third quarter. Year-over-year demand for iPhones and Macs rose 13% and 18%, respectively, but Apple's iPad business declined 9% on an annual basis.

Notably, Apple's gross margin increased to 39.4% in the third quarter -- up 2.5% year over year. As a result, several analysts raised their price target on Apple's stock, which was likely a key reason for its rally. Analysts at Macquarie cited the forthcoming iPhone 6 as a reason to own the stock, although Apple gave few details about forthcoming products during its earnings call.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Microsoft rallies despite posting loss
Microsoft shares rose more than 1% on Wednesday. Like Apple, the company also reported its quarterly earnings on Tuesday afternoon. Its earnings per share of $0.55 was a bit lower than the $0.60 estimate. Revenue of $23.38 billion slightly exceeded the $23 billion estimate.

Microsoft blamed its disappointing profitability on the acquisition of Nokia's handset business -- without it, Microsoft claimed that earnings would have exceeded expectations. Microsoft's search engine, Bing, saw its ad revenue rise a full 40%, and the tech giant said it added 1 million customers to its Office 365 subscription service.

During its earnings call, management spoke of a focused Windows -- one operating system that powers many different form factors. Microsoft spoke repeatedly about the ongoing shift toward cloud computing, and how it was poised to dominate a cloud-first world.

The 1% rally seems fair in the context of Microsoft's recent moves: Prior to Wednesday, shares of the Windows maker had already spiked nearly 20% in 2014. Microsoft's business appears to be thriving, but is not notably exceeding expectations.

Electronic Arts stumbles despite earnings beat
Electronic Arts shares fell over 4% on Wednesday after it also reported earnings Tuesday afternoon.

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Revenue of $775 was a bit better than the $713.2 million consensus estimate, while earnings per share of $0.19 was much better than the $0.04 loss Wall Street had anticipated. Stifel Nicolaus raised its price target on the video-game maker in the wake of the quarter, from $42 to $46. At current levels, that suggests upside of more than 24%.

So why were Electronic Arts' shares falling on Wednesday? Likely because the widely anticipated Battlefield Hardline, which was expected to go on sale later this year, was pushed out to the beginning of 2015. Missing the all-important holiday season could weigh on Electronic Arts' future earnings.