US stocks rose sharply on Thursday even as the Federal Reserve implemented its second consecutive 0.75% interest rate hike. Following interest rate increases in March and June, the latest July rate hike brings the central bank’s overnight interest rate from near zero to 2.25-2.50%.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the pace of rate hikes will slow down at some point to assess their impact, but a recession is unlikely as the strong US labor market should allow the economy to withstand rapid monetary tightening.
Major tech giants reported their highly anticipated Q2 earnings this week. Amazon and Apple reported strong quarterly results, but Meta, Alphabet and Microsoft missed estimates.
Here are this week’s top highlights.
Amazon reported better-than-expected earnings on Thursday and issued positive guidance for the third quarter. Revenue grew 7% during the second quarter and the company expects third-quarter growth to hit 13% to 17%.
After an aggressive expansion during the pandemic, Amazon cut headcount by 99,000 people as of the end of the second quarter. However, losses totalled $2 billion for the quarter mainly due to investment loss from Amazon’s stake in Rivian.
On the bright side, Amazon’s ad business appears to be booming. Ad revenue surged 18% during the quarter, in sharp contrast against Facebook and Google, which saw slowing advertising growth.
Amazon shares jumped more than 13% during after-hours trading on Thursday.
Apple reported quarterly earnings on Thursday that exceeded analyst expectations. Revenue rose 2% during the quarter while earnings per share of $1.20 beat the $1.16 estimated. While results were better than expected, they represented softer growth compared to figures from a year ago.
Services was the fastest-growing segment for Apple during the quarter, rising 12%. Earlier this year, Apple announced its foray into Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), setting up financial services to be its next revenue driver.
iPhone sales also surpassed expectations, even amid rising inflation.
Apple shares rose more than 3% during after-hours trading on Thursday.
Facebook parent Meta reported its first-ever yearly decline in revenue on Wednesday. Revenue dropped 1% to $28.8 billion for the quarter while profit fell 36% to $6.7 billion. However, Facebook’s daily users rose 3%, and the number of users using its suite of social apps such as Instagram and Whatsapp has increased by 4% from last year. Shares were down 5% on Thursday.
Meta’s advertising business has been hammered by Apple’s new iOS update, making it difficult for advertisers to target users across multiple third-party sites. Targeted ads would now be less effective and this has forced app developers to begin charging for their apps and in-app purchases instead of subsidizing them with ad sales. Additionally, many advertisers have pulled back on ad spending due to current economic conditions.
In the year-to-date, shares of Meta are down 50% while its market cap has sunk below $500 billion. In an effort to cope with its revenue drop in the digital advertising space, Meta is joining other tech giants such as Alphabet and Microsoft to reduce headcount growth over the next year.
In this week’s Compounded podcast, we discuss how Meta plans to claw its way back to growth after its first ever revenue drop.
Despite missing Wall Street expectations on its Q2 earnings, Alphabet saw its share gain 4.8% after-hours on Tuesday. Revenue came in at $69.6 billion while earnings per share were $1.21, falling short of estimates. Last week, shares of Snap fell 26% after its Q2 results, which negatively affected several ad tech stocks in the industry.
The Google parent’s Q2 results were primarily driven by its dominant Search business, which recorded significant growth of nearly 14% boosted by travel and retail queries. Google Cloud, however, lost $858 million this quarter, as it attempts to gain market share share from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
Spotify shares popped more than 14% on Wednesday after reporting better-than-expected results. Adjusted earnings per share made a loss of -$0.86 while revenue of $2.91 billion beat analyst expectations of $2.85 billion.
Subscriber growth also increased tremendously, with monthly active users growing 19% year-over-year to 433 million users, despite the closure of its Russian operations. Ad-supported revenue also saw an increase of 31% year-over-year.
The music streamer recently announced the acquisition of Heardle, a music recognition trivia game, as part of its mission to make its app more interactive for consumers and draw more users into the app. Although the company did not disclose the amount it bought Heardle for, this takeover can help diversify its revenue streams as Spotify invests more in video, live streaming, and podcasts altogether. Heardle will remain as a standalone game on its website, remaining free for everyone.
Walmart cut its outlook for its second quarter and the remaining year ahead as consumers continue spending more on necessities and less on discretionary purchases such as clothing and electronics. Due to inflation, the shift in consumer spending left more items on shelves and warehouses. Walmart has been forced to aggressively mark down unwanted items to reduce excess inventory, hurting its profit margins.
Other retail stocks fell similarly after Walmart’s profit warning. The retail giant is anticipating adjusted earnings per share and its full-year earnings to decline 9% and 13% respectively. Walmart is scheduled to announce its fiscal Q2 earnings results on 16 August.
Earlier in Q1, Walmart’s earnings fell short of estimates which sent shares down by nearly 12%, the worst single-session decline since 1987.
Morgan Stanley has named JD.com a “catalyst driven idea”. Analysts believe the company is capable of generating better-than-expected revenue when it releases its upcoming Q2 earnings report on 22 August.
Earlier in June, sales of JD.com rose 10% during its first major “618” shopping festival since the Covid-19 outbreak, a sharp decrease from its 2021 sales growth of 28%. In Q1, JD.com saw its slowest revenue growth of 18% in history.
Separately, JD.com recently extended its partnership with tech giant Tencent Holdings for an additional three years to keep its preferential access to Tencent’s dominant chat app, Wechat, which has nearly 1.3 billion users. Last December, Tencent offloaded $16 billion worth of JD shares, reducing its stake to 2.3% from 2.7% when it first invested in 2014.