After an up-and-down first quarter, the market gears up for what April has to offer. There are plenty of things for investors to watch.
From the launch of a highly anticipated smartwatch to an earnings report out of the leading premium video streaming provider, let's start looking out to some of the events that will unfold in the month ahead.
There is change afoot at SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS) as new CEO Joel Manby takes over. He'll be inheriting the biggest mess in the theme park industry, as SeaWorld has suffered back-to-back years of 4% declines in attendance. Other exhibitors are doing just fine, so either SeaWorld isn't investing enough in new attractions or activists have succeeded in casting the attractions operator in a negative light for keeping killer whales in captivity. The smart money is on the latter, but don't dismiss the former given SeaWorld skimping on marquee ride additions since going public two years ago.
Manby was CEO at the country's largest family-owned theme park operator, an entity watching over Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, and a few other water parks, attractions, and resorts. He's going to have his hands full. Picketing activists aren't as kind as the country music fans hitting up Manby's former parks in Branson and Pigeon Forge.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) begins taking preorders for the Apple Watch next week. There's a lot riding on the smartwatch. The iPhone accounted for more than two-thirds of Apple's sales during the holiday quarter, and it can use another hit product at a time when iPad and iPod sales are languishing.
The new high-tech timepieces start at $349. There are concerns about the device's battery life, and there may very well be some bugs for early adopters to work out. It probably won't stop them from ordering the latest iGadget -- and/or lining up to buy one at a local Apple Store when the smartwatch hits the market on April 24 -- but patient fans of innovation may want to wait for the inevitable second generation of the device with improved specs.
There will be plenty of people watching when Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) reports quarterly results in two weeks. The dot-com darling has made streaming television and binge viewing popular, and it has taken advantage of its leadership position to expand aggressively abroad.
The leading premium video service started the year with 57.39 million streaming subscribers worldwide. It expects to add more than 4 million net new users during the first three months of 2015, closing out the quarter with 61.44 million accounts. International users are expected to account for more than a third of its subscribers for the first time. Investors will naturally want to keep on eye on the subscriber count, but they will also want to make sure Netflix is building on its stateside profitability as it improves its operations abroad.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is another tech bellwether that investors will be keeping an eye on when it reports fresh financials later in the month. There are a lot of moving parts at the software giant as Windows-fueled PC sales struggle in a world overrun with Apple and Android smartphones that perform many simple computing tasks.
The new Surface 3 tablet begins selling next month, and Windows 10 is expected to roll out shortly after that. For now the market isn't holding out for much. Analysts see a mere 3.7% year-over-year gain in Microsoft's top line for the quarter -- its fiscal third quarter -- with a sharp decline in profitability. That's not the kind of growth that investors like to see, but the direction of Microsoft's stock will rest on how the tech titan assesses its opportunities in the months and perhaps years ahead.