Netflix reported third quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, beating the Wall Street consensus by 7 cents a share. Revenue climbed 31.7% to meet Wall Street expectations. And the company raised guidance for the fourth quarter of earnings of 13 cents a share versus the 8 cents a share analyst consensus.
But what really popped the stock in after-hours trading was a much bigger than expected gain in net new members. In the quarter the company added 370,000 members in the United States against a company forecast of 300,000 and 3.2 million members in international markets against a company forecast of 2 million. That pushed the total for streaming members to 86.7 million against the forecast of 85.5 million. At the same time, in another sign of health, Netflix said its average selling price (ASP) climbed 10% year over year in both U.S. and international markets.
And for the fourth quarter Netflix said it expects to add 5.2 million net new members with 1.45 million in the United States and 3.75 million internationally.
After closing slightly lower in the regular session–at $99.80 down 1.65%–Netflix shares zoomed ahead 19.55% to $119.31 in after hours trading.
Which will give us another indicator of market optimism/pessimism tomorrow. Netflix gained so much in after-hours trading today because the stock went into earnings against solid skepticism and significant selling by shorts who expected the company to miss forecasts or in some other way to disappoint. Tomorrow, will traders and investors who made a bundle today in the after-hours session look to sell and take profits or will they decide to buy more on the improved guidance for the fourth quarter? And how will that buying or selling, whichever, net out against any remaining buying by shorts who decide to cover their positions.
Netflix is the first of the so-called FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (aka Alphabet)) to report. And there’s a sizable delay between Netflix and the others–Amazon and Alphabet on October 27 and Facebook on November 2. But this market, which is worried about another quarter with a year over year drop in earnings, needs some reason to be excited about earnings. It certainly won’t get that excitement (at least not in a positive way) from drug stocks or biotechs, which are in retreat as the odds of a victory by Hillary Clinton increase. (The assumption is that a President Clinton will be tough on pricing and on regulation.) We’re not seeing anything optimistic from the dividend-bearing sectors, which are under pressure from the prospects for an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve in December.
Going into the quarter’s earnings season only the technology sector of the Standard & Poor’s 500 looked poised to post year over year growth in earnings and Wall Street analysts were actually looking to raise their forecasts for earnings growth in the sector.
Tomorrow, look to see if Netflix hangs onto its after-hours gains from today–or maybe even tacks on a point or two from the after-hours close. Also check to see if enthusiasm over the Netflix results spreads to shares of Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet. That enthusiasm will be most obviously manifest in increases in target prices from Wall Street analysts. Today, for example, before the Netflix news, Credit Suisse raised its target price for Facebook to $170 from $154. I think that counts as enthusiasm since Facebook was trading at $127.88 today.
Of course, too much enthusiasm creates the possibility of disappointment when these companies actually report. But that’s a problem for another day.