Big Tech stocks surge ahead of earnings tsunami

(Reuters) – Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet rallied on Thursday ahead of earnings reports from the quintet of technology titans that has helped keep Wall Street in positive territory this year, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo. REUTERS/File Photo

Facebook jumped over 5%, with Apple and Google-parent Alphabet each rising over 3%, and Amazon adding 1.6%. Those companies’ gains ahead of their quarterly results after the bell added a combined $163 billion to their market capitalizations, more than the entire value of McDonald’s Corp.

Heavyweight U.S. technology companies, also including Zoom Video Communications, Nvidia and Microsoft, have grown their businesses and outperformed smaller rivals this year as the pandemic accelerates trends toward online shopping, video streaming and other technologies.

Rallies in shares of these top-shelf tech companies have led the S&P 500 to record highs, even as the index’s smaller components struggle with a crippled global economy.

Without Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet – the so-called FAANG stocks – the S&P 500 would be down about 4% in 2020, compared with the index’s 2% year-to-date rise, according to a research note from Bespoke Investment Group on Thursday.

“Due to both the huge weight of these stocks and their outperformance, the market has become more reliant on them than ever before for its gains,” according to Bespoke.

This week’s quarterly reports come amid turbulence on Wall Street, with soaring coronavirus cases and uncertainty about a fiscal relief bill in Washington dimming the outlook for an economic recovery and knocking over 5% off the S&P 500 between Monday and Wednesday. Rallying tech stocks on Thursday pushed the S&P 500 up almost 1%.

Microsoft, Wall Street’s third most valuable company, rose 1.1% after the software maker late on Wednesday reported better-than-expected results, helped by a pandemic-driven shift to working from home and online learning.

Recent options trades imply investors expect a 6.3% swing in Facebook’s shares in either direction by Friday, according Trade Alert. Over the last eight quarters, on average, the shares moved 5.5% on the day after Facebook reported.

Facebook’s report could show an impact from several companies pulling advertising in recent months in support of a campaign calling out the social media giant for not doing enough to stop hate speech on its platforms. Analysts on average expect Facebook to report revenue up 12% to $19.82 billion, according to Refinitiv.

“If I look at all the large-cap tech companies, I’m mostly worried about Facebook, going into the print, because of all of those ad boycotts,” said Brad Gastwirth, chief technology strategist at Wedbush Securities.

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