Netflix's subscribers, TSMC, Tesla upside - what's moving markets

April 18, 2024 4:57 AM EDT -- Wall Street looks set to open a touch higher Thursday ahead of Netflix's first-quarter earnings, the first of the mega tech stocks to report. Chipmaker TSMC impressed with its numbers, while crude slipped lower even after the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Venezuela's exports.

1. Netflix subscriber growth in focus

The U.S. earnings season kicks into top gear later Thursday, with the first of the country’s mega tech stocks that have pushed the stock market to record highs this year due to report - step forward Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).

The streaming giant saw its strongest growth since the pandemic in the second half of 2023, with about 22 million people signing up for the service after the company curbed the sharing of passwords globally.

However, this blockbuster growth will be difficult to maintain, and LSEG data suggests that the market is expecting an addition of 5 million subscribers in the first quarter ended March.

This is nearly three times the 1.8 million additions it saw in the same period last year, but would mark a slowdown from the impressive growth seen in the last two quarters of 2023.

Elsewhere, Netflix has reported 23 million monthly subscribers for its ad-supported tier, and analysts are looking for the adoption of this plan to grow this year.

There will also be a focus on content spending, with the company saying during an investor call last quarter it expects to invest as much as $17 billion this year.

2. Futures edge higher ahead of jobless claims, Netflix earnings

U.S. stock futures edged higher Thursday, attempting to rebound after recent weakness ahead of the release of labor market data and more corporate earnings.

By 04:30 ET (08:30 GMT), the Dow futures contract was 45 points, or 0.1%, higher, S&P 500 futures climbed 15 points, or 0.3%, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose by 85 points, or 0.5%.

The main indices closed lower Wednesday, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite falling for their fourth consecutive session, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped for its seventh session in eight.

The main economic data release will be the weekly initial jobless claims data, while the existing home sales report for March is also out.

The earnings season will also be in focus, with numbers due from the likes of Alaska Air (NYSE: ALK) and KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY) before the opening bell, before the day’s main corporate highlight from Netflix after the close.

Additionally, credit bureau Equifax (NYSE: EFX) stock traded over 9% lower premarket on disappointing second-quarter guidance, while casino resort Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) dropped 3%.

3. TSMC rides the AI wave in the first quarter

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE: TSM), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, impressed with its first-quarter results earlier Thursday, posting a 9% rise in net profit that beat market expectations, benefiting from increased demand in the rapidly-growing artificial intelligence industry.

This surge towards AI has helped Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing weather the tapering off of pandemic-led electronics demand, with first-quarter revenue rising 16.5% on an annual basis.

That said, the strong year-on-year rise was also in part driven by a lower base for comparison, given that TSMC was still struggling with weak chip demand in 2023.

TSMC's earnings are largely seen as a bellwether for global chip demand, given the firm's pivotal role in the chipmaking industry, and the importance of its customers, including Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).

The sector had taken a hit on Wednesday after ASML (AS: ASML), the largest supplier of equipment to computer chip makers like TSMC, reported weaker than expected first-quarter new bookings, though sales to China held up despite U.S.-led restrictions.

4. Tesla can bounce back stronger - Morgan Stanley

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has had a rough ride of late, announcing earlier this week it would be cutting more than 10% of its global workforce, which totaled around 140,000 employees at the end of 2023.

This follows the electric vehicle manufacturer reporting an 8.5% year-over-year decline in first-quarter deliveries, the first drop since 2020, as it struggles with severe competition in the vital Chinese market.

On Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk also confirmed in an internal email that the company sent out some severance packages that were too low to a number of laid-off workers this week.

Tesla’s stock has fallen more than 10% over the course of the last week, and is now down over 37% so far this year.

However, Morgan Stanley remains a fan, saying the company will emerge stronger from the "EV recession," and warns investors against ignoring the company's AI-related developments.

"Tesla has significant attributes to be valued as an AI beneficiary," analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note dated April 17, keeping an ‘overweight’ rating on stock.

But before Tesla can get credit as an AI company, the EV maker has to focus efforts on stabilizing its core EV business to stem the negative earnings revisions seen so far, the bank added.

"We believe investors should not ignore the continued developments of Tesla’s other plays," Morgan Stanley said, many of which are auto-related including the recurring revenue opportunity from the Tesla fleet.

5. Crude stabilized after reimposition of Venezuela sanctions

Crude prices weakened Thursday adding to the previous session’s sharp loss, even after the Biden administration reimposed sanctions on Venezuela’s crude exports after President Nicolas Maduro failed to meet initial promises to hold national elections.

By 04:30 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% lower at $82.33 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.4% to $86.96 per barrel.

The news that the U.S. government has decided to reimpose oil sanctions on Venezuela has provided an element of support, along with the elevated geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

Venezuela's oil exports grew 12% to about 700,000 barrels per day in 2023 after the U.S. eased some sanctions on the country's oil industry.

However, bets on tighter markets were offset by data showing record-high U.S. production and a substantial build in inventories.

Oil inventories rose by 2.7 million barrels to 460 million barrels in the week ending April 12, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, nearly double expectations.

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