Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): What Could Move The Stock

microsoftDavid Zeiler: Microsoft Corp.’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Q3 earnings don’t figure to offer many surprises, but even a small beat will drive up the MSFT stock price.

Microsoft reports earnings tomorrow (Thursday) after the market close.

The Microsoft stock price is down about 14% from its 52-week high of $50.05, which it hit Nov. 14. Most of the decline came following Microsoft’s last earnings report in January, when disappointment over sales in the commercial division dropped MSFT stock 9.3% in one day.

Since then the MSFT stock price has not fully recovered, trading between $40 and $44. Microsoft stock closed Wednesday at $42.99.

MSFT stock price

That’s set Microsoft stock up for a technical move of “filling the gap” on any positive news from the Q3 earnings. (Microsoft’s fiscal year ends in June.)

If the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant can show that its transition strategies toward the cloud and mobile are working, it won’t need a dramatic earnings beat to move the MSFT stock price.

Microsoft, like longtime partner Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and most PC makers, has suffered as PC sales have leveled off in recent years. Investors mainly want to know that Microsoft has a viable plan for future growth.

Here are the details on Microsoft’s Q3 earnings…

What to Watch for in Q3 Microsoft Earnings

The numbers: Analysts are looking for earnings per share (EPS) of $0.51, which would be a 25% drop year over year. Only a huge beat will be enough to avoid the fifth straight quarter of year-over-year declines. The forecast for revenue is $21.1 billion, which would be a 3.4% increase over the revenue of $20.4 billion in Q3 of 2014. It would also be the fourth straight quarter of year-over-year revenue increases.

The last quarter: For Q2, Microsoft was in line with estimates on EPS, reporting earnings of $0.71 a share. That was, however, a 9% decline from the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue was $26.5 billion, just above expectations for $26.32 billion.

The stock: As noted earlier, the MSFT stock price is down from its highs of last fall. Microsoft stock fell 12.48% in the first quarter of 2015, and is down 7.3% in 2015. But MSFT stock is still up 8% over the past 12 months. Microsoft declared a quarterly dividend of $0.31 a share on March 10.

Now here’s what could have an impact on the Microsoft stock price…

Earnings News That Could Move the MSFT Stock Price

After what happened in January, Wall Street will have a close eye on Microsoft’s commercial licensing division. That includes enterprise sales of such products as Azure, Office 365, Windows, and server products.

It’s Microsoft’s biggest division by far, and one where it’s pushing hard on its cloud products like Azure and Office 365.

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