With investors on pins and needles these days, many of tech's most dominant names find their shares cheaper today than at any other time in recent memory.

In keeping with the flurry of recent activity, the fourth-quarter earnings season will reach its crescendo next week with a number of high-profile reports tech investors will want to watch. Let's review what investors should monitor and how they should approach the upcoming earnings releases from Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Image source: Amazon.

Amazon.com (reports on Jan. 28)  
E-commerce and cloud computing leader Amazon.com produced one of the more impressive performances in all of tech in 2015, rallying 118%. Wall Street expects another stellar quarterly report from the company:


Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

Amazon Revenue




Amazon EPS




Data source: Yahoo! Finance.  

Though I'm on record as an adamant long-term Amazon bull, I worry that Amazon's earnings-per-share estimate of $1.63 might prove slightly aggressive. Though the company has reported real, actual profits in three of its last four quarters, it's no secret that CEO Jeff Bezos loves gaining market share through aggressive price competition, especially in Amazon's naturally low-margin e-commerce business. He often manages Amazon to as close to breakeven as investors will allow. Especially given the surprising profitability of Amazon's AWS, it is likely capable of generating $1.63. It's just a matter of whether management will choose to do so.

However, if Amazon misses earnings and the expectant sell-off ensues, long-term investors would do well to snap up its falling shares. Amazon dominates two of the most long-tailed growth markets in all of tech -- e-commerce and cloud computing -- and shows no sign of slowing. It's one of the few companies I know of that one can fairly argue is a generational growth stock. Especially if Amazon misses what seems like an aggressive EPS comp here, it would be a late Christmas present for tech investors with a time horizon of five or more years.

Image source: eBay.

eBay (reports on Jan. 27)  
eBay shares appear cheap heading into its second quarterly report in its post-PayPal era. Especially considering its compelling performance in its Q3 report, there's certainly a newfound optimism surrounding its core business, which many of us argued wasn't properly appreciated by the market in the past. Here's what analysts are calling for on Tuesday:


Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

eBay Revenue




eBay EPS




Data source: Yahoo! Finance 

Much like its e-commerce brethren Amazon, eBay also stands to benefit from the continued rise of e-commerce, both in the United States and globally. Though I always reference this figure in arguing my bull case for Amazon, it seems few tech investors appreciate that e-commerce sales only represent 7.4% of total U.S. sales according to the Department of Commerce, and importantly, the U.S. enjoys one of the more mature e-commerce ecosystems in the world today.

Analysts are calling for eBay to average 7% growth annually over the next five years. However, the market only values the company at 14 times earnings. This strikes me as a bit of a disconnect, especially as eBay has begun to return cash to shareholders in the form of last quarter's $600 million stock buyback. So although we'll have a clearer sense of its progress next week, a number of factors make eBay an intriguing option for tech investors looking for value.

Image source: Apple.

Apple (reports on Jan. 26)  
Last but certainly not least, the world's largest publicly traded company's upcoming report appears to be one of its most tenuous in memory. On balance, Wall Street expects a rather anemic quarter from Apple, with single-digit growth on the bottom and top lines.


Q4 2015 (expected)

Q4 2014

% Change

Apple Revenue




Apple EPS




Data source: Yahoo! Finance.  

Rumors of slowing demand for its all-important iPhone have weighed on Apple stock as of late, dragging it down some 26% over the last six months. Though this may indeed prove correct, I believe the market's obsession over recent risk factors actually creates an opportunity for more forward-looking investors.

Rather than an indictment of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus themselves, consumers might also be delaying their iPhone purchases in anticipation of Apple's customary even-year iPhone form factor update with the iPhone 7 in September.

As such, there's a legitimate case to be made that the multiple expansion that should occur when Apple switches back to growth could produce compelling returns for investors who buy ahead of this trend. In fact, that market appears to understand this dynamic and price in Apple's future growth into its shares during the run-up to each new release. These bi-annual improved expectations alone go a long way toward explaining why Apple stock has outperformed the market by an average of 25% in the six months preceding each new iPhone release.

So while Apple shares might drag on news of a weak quarter, ample evidence supports the idea that better days could be right around the corner for this tech giant.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.