Despite sub-par economic growth and a lack of jobs, equity markets have been surging over the past few months as investors have scooped up beaten down equities in hopes of riding the recent trend to robust gains. No more has this been true than in the technology sector where a variety of large companies seem poised for solid levels of growth on the back of increased demand in emerging markets and huge cash piles which are ready to be deployed in order to create new growth opportunities.
A great example of this is with internet search giant Google (GOOG) which has begun to deploy its cash war chest in a variety of sectors of the market. The company has ramped up its spending in a variety of sectors and has now invested $715 million through the first half of the year; a 78% increase from the same period last year. However, despite its somewhat rosy view of the market and its sharp increases in both spending and hiring, GOOG has underperformed some of its main competitors in its industry; GOOG’s stock is up just 11.1% over the past quarter compared to a 19.2% gain for Apple and a 34.4% gain for Chinese internet search firm Baidu.com. While longer-term investors are likely not to care as much about this– especially given the company’s performance since its IPO– many will still be curious to see what the company forecasts for the rest of the year and 2011 at its earnings release later today [also see GOOG's Standoff Driving China Tech ETFs].
Analysts expect earnings of $6.69 per share on revenues of $5.27 billion compared to $5.13 a share in earnings on revenues of $4.39 billion in the third quarter of last year. Investors will likely focus in on three key aspects of the company’s business in order to get a better picture of the company’s future growth opportunities; mobile phones, DoubleClick, and YouTube. The Android operating system has been a smashing success for Google and looks to be a cash cow well into the future as well; according to BusinessWeek, the company previously has said that more than 200,000 Android devices are being activated per day. This suggests not only rapid user adoption but also ensures that Google will keep its hands on the increasingly large mobile search market, allowing the company to continue its dominance on the mobile platform as well [see Three Tech-Heavy International ETFs].
Investors will also be interested in the recent results of the company’s two multi-bullion dollar acquisitions DoubleClick and YouTube. Although YouTube is still likely to be posting a loss, the company has said that it is selling ads along almost two billion videos per week suggesting that the division may finally become profitable in the near future which would be great news for Google and its nearly two billion dollar investment in the video giant. Meanwhile, the $3.2 billion purchase of ad manager DoubleClick appears to be going very smoothly as virtually all of the company’s top 1000 advertising clients are currently running ad campaigns on the Google Display Network. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that this display ad business could end up being a $10+ billion dollar business so investors will obviously be intrigued to see if this acquisition is living up to these lofty expectations [see all the funds in the Technology Equities ETFdb Category].
Due to this earnings report, we have decided to make the First Trust Internet Index Fund (FDN) today’s ETF to watch. The fund, which tracks the Dow Jones Internet Index, allocates close to 8.8% of its holdings to Google, making it the top component for the fund. Other large holdings include Amazon.com (6.9%), eBay (5.8%) and Priceline.com (5.8%) ensuring that the fund covers a wide swath of online businesses. In terms of market capitalization levels, the fund offers investors a wide range; 34.5% of the fund goes to mid caps, 40.9% to large/giant cap companies and the rest to small and micro capitalization firms. FDN has performed pretty well so far in 2010; posting a gain of 20.9% since the start of the year. Should top holdings Google manage to beat estimates and post solid guidance for the rest of the year, look for FDN and the tech sector at large to finish out the week on a high note [Find which ETFs have the most exposure to your favorite company with our Stock Exposure Tool].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing, photo is courtesy of Vinhtantran.