Though the trading year opened to an inauspicious start, savvy investors should recognize that stocks that are trading at their lowest levels since 2014 represent an opportunity as much as a risk. With earnings season steaming toward its peak next week, investors would do well to watch a host of tech's most-important names as they report their holiday season financial results.

Let's quickly review the key storylines and numbers that investors will want to watch when Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) release their earnings.

Msft

Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft -- Reports on Jan 28th  
Bucking the market's recent downward trend, shares of Microsoft have outperformed the market by more than 20% in the six months heading into its FY '16 second-quarter report. Judging by the average analyst's expectations, investors should expect more of a whimper than a bang from the software power next week.

 

Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

Microsoft Revenue

 $25.26

 $26.47

-4.6%

Microsoft EPS

 $0.71

 $0.71

0%

Source: Yahoo!Finance. 

Microsoft appears to have finally found its operational cadence under CEO Satya Nadella. Its ongoing transition into, and key place within, the global cloud-computing market provides the company with a new growth engine as it struggles to keep its historic profit centers -- Office and especially Windows -- relevant in today's mobile-first computing era.

Turning an eye to valuation, Microsoft appears cheaper than its backward-looking 34 times price-to-earnings multiple indicates because of the $7.6 billion FY 2015 Q4 (CY Q2) writedown the company took related to its botched Ballmer-era acquisition of Nokia's handset division.

On a forward basis, Microsoft's 16 times multiple of its next 12-months earnings still offers some value relative to the market, though admittedly less after the market's recent pullback. However, for investors looking for relatively safe exposure to the tech sector with ample opportunity for dividend growth, Microsoft certainly fits the bill.

Att Logo

Source: AT&T.

AT&T -- Reports on Jan 26th
In times of panic, investors often seek safety in bonds or bond-like equities, which probably helps explain telecom giant AT&T's nearly double-digit outperformance so far in 2016. As we head into its coming quarterly update, it appears AT&T's financial momentum could help its shares continue to outperform in the months to come.

 

Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

AT&T Revenue

 $42.79

 $34.44

24.2%

AT&T EPS

 $0.65

 $0.55

18.2%

Source: Yahoo!Finance. 

Heading into the new year, it's hard not to like AT&T's competitive positioning in the cutthroat market for wireless services, particularly in the wake of its acquisition of DirecTV. Owning one of the more-popular national TV distributors gives AT&T an unmatched ability to bundle services -- wireless, Internet, TV, and other services -- together to a degree that rivals Verizon Communications, Sprint, and T-Mobile simply cannot match.

What's more, AT&T has rolled out new plans, such as unlimited wireless data for DirecTV or U-verse subscribers. It also continues to aggressively invest in wireless spectrum, though some debate whether these are offensive or defensive tactics on Ma Bell's part. Expect continued antagonism from smaller rivals like Sprint, and especially T-Mobile; but AT&T's key points of differentiation should help it thrive in our increasingly mobile-centric lives.

Turning to AT&T's shares, investors typically own AT&T for its income-producing prowess rather than earnings-growth momentum. Here, AT&T's current 5.6% yield offers investors plenty to like. The company has also increased its payouts each year for the past 31 years, and it's a safe bet that this trend will continue in 2016. Heading into its next report, there's certainly a lot to like for income investors in AT&T at present.

Fb F Logo

Source: Facebook

Facebook -- Reports on Jan 27th 
Facebook is the consummate growth stock, and there's little reason to believe that the company's torrential momentum should slow any time soon. Judging by the average analyst expectation, Facebook is due to report another impressive quarter after the market closes on Wednesday.

 

Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

Facebook Revenue

 $5.36

 $3.85

39.2%

Facebook EPS

 $0.68

 $0.54

25.9%

Source: Yahoo!Finance. 

Both in terms of its core business and its numerous high-potential side businesses, Facebook enjoys a number of compelling routes to grow into its admittedly lofty valuation. The company has been ingenious in increasing the amount of time users spend on its platform via initiatives like Instant Articles. And though Facebook has yet to deploy them at scale, the company has quietly worked on a number of other intriguing products that could help continue to increase time-on-site, which, in turn, allows Facebook to serve more ads to its users.

However, beyond Facebook's core social networking platform, the company also controls at least three multi-billion opportunities in Instagram, WhatsApp/Messenger, and Oculus VR. Facebook has already started to serve ads on Instagram, and eMarketer estimates its revenue will reach $1.5 billion in 2016 alone. Though it has been more deliberate in its strategy to do so, Facebook has clearly demonstrated the profit potential of its massive twin messaging services, Messenger and WhatsApp, which cater to a combined user base of more than 1.6 billion active users.

Though Facebook's Oculus headsets will only slowly begin to reach the market in the second half of 2016, the emerging consensus insists that VR and AR represent the next great step forward in a host of entertainment and communications applications. Facebook has plenty going for it in this coming quarter and beyond.

Andrew Tonner has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.