The Netflix Inc. app is demonstrated for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPad (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

Netflix Could Be Hero for Weary Tech Investors Needing Spark

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(Bloomberg) -- If there’s anything left with the potential to cheer up technology investors, it’s an earnings report from Netflix Inc.

Through an onslaught of market swoons, privacy scandals and antitrust threats, the Los Gatos, California-based television and movie service has stood unscathed. More than that: the stock just had its best quarter since 2015, while companies like Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. lost ground.

“Netflix earnings can not come soon enough,” Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer for GBH Insights LLC, said in an interview. “This is a key earnings season, especially given some of the macro and political uncertainty and regulatory worries.”

The company’s earnings report on Monday is the first of the tech megacaps -- and it comes at a critical time. After four selloffs of 3 percent or more this year, the S&P 500 Information Technology Index is trading just above the halfway mark between the March 12 record and the 2018 low on Feb. 8. Alphabet and Facebook, which report on April 23 and April 25, are both in the red for the year. Apple Inc. reports on May 1 and has gained 3 percent.

Enter Netflix, which has shot up faster than analysts can raise their price targets. The stock has added more than $50 billion in market value in 2018 and traded above the average price forecast for most of the past three months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The shares rose as much as 2.7 percent Friday, their fifth consecutive gain, after Deutsche Bank raised its rating to buy and Comcast said it will add Netflix subscriptions to its cable packages.

The average estimate for Netflix’s first quarter revenue has increased by about $163 million to $3.69 billion after a blowout fourth quarter in January, according to Bloomberg data. Higher expectations combined with recent stock gains leave little room for error for Netflix, which is the second-best performing stock in the S&P 500 this year after Nektar Therapeutics, which only joined the benchmark index a few weeks ago.

Wall Street is looking for first quarter total subscriber net additions of 1.45 million in the U.S. and 5.0 million internationally, according to the average of six estimates compiled by Bloomberg News. That compares with the company’s forecasts of 1.45 million and 4.9 million on Jan. 22. Deutsche Bank, in its upgrade, said Netflix may have added up to 1 million more subscribers globally in the first quarter than forecast.

“The market has been distracted by legitimate political noise, but once earnings season starts, I think the story will change dramatically,” said Ross Gerber, chief executive officer of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management. Gerber’s firm owns Netflix shares and he expects subscriber growth to exceed estimates.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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