TECH STOCKS: Apple, Microsoft Fuel Broad Tech Gains

By Dow Jones Business News, 

By Rex Crum, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. were among the big-name tech stocks that rose Wednesday as investors remained positive about the sector bellwethers in the wake of their latest earnings reports.

Apple ( AAPL ) climbed more than 2% to $96.97 after reporting late Tuesday a fiscal third-quarter profit of $7.75 billion, or $1.28 a share, on revenue of $37.43 billion. During the same period a year ago, Apple earned $6.9 billion, or $1.07 a share, on $35.32 billion in sales. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast Apple to earn $1.23 a share on revenue of $37.98 billion.

Apple gave a slightly disappointing fourth-quarter revenue forecast, saying it expects sales of between $37 billion and $40 billion, while analysts were looking for $40.6 billion in revenue.

Some analysts said Apple investors are at risk if the company doesn't deliver on hotly anticipated new products such as the iPhone 6 and the so-called iTime, which is rumored to be due out this fall. However, upbeat sales of iPhones and Mac computers helped Apple's case that the company is setting itself up for a strong new product lineup through the rest of the year.

"[Chief Executive] Tim Cook did not explicitly talk about new product categories," said analyst Gene Munster, of Piper Jaffray. "[But] We continue to expect two larger screen iPhones, an iWatch, and a possible payments platform."

Microsoft ( MSFT ) rose 1% to $45.31 following the software giant's fiscal fourth-quarter report on Tuesday. Microsoft reported a profit of $4.6 billion, or 55 cents a share, on revenue of $23.4 billion, compared with earnings of $4.97 billion, or 59 cents a share, on $19.9 billion in sales a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast Microsoft to earn 60 cents a share on $23 billion in revenue.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brendan Barnicle raised his rating on Microsoft to outperform from sector perform, citing the company's progress in its cloud-based software offerings.

Facebook Inc. ( FB ) rose more than 1% to $70.08 a share ahead of the social-networking company's second-quarter results, due after the close of trading.

Chip stocks were in the red, with Xilinx Inc. (XLNX) off by more than 14% at $41.23. The company reported first- quarter results that exceeded expectations, but gave a weaker-than-expected sales outlook for its second quarter.

Other chip stocks in the red included Altera Corp. ( ALTR ), down more than 3%, ST Microelectronics (STM), which fell 6% and Intel Corp. ( INTC ), off by almost 1%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) rose almost 20 points to 4,475, while the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) was down by 1.6%.

More must-read news from MarketWatch:

Facebook to try and prove there is no social-media bubble

Apple shares may be at risk of autumn disappointment

Facebook expected to report 55% sales growth

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This article appears in: Commodities

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , ALTR , FB , INTC , MSFT

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