Microsoft (MSFT) shares were indicated sharply higher in pre-market trading Thursday after it posted stronger-than-expected first quarter profits and continued growth its key cloud computing division that could set the tone for a series of tech-focused earnings in the days ahead.
Microsoft posted revenue figures for the three months ending in September, its fiscal first quarter, that comprehensively topped Street forecasts for each of its key business sectors, including its Intelligent Cloud computing division, where Azure sales rose 76%, helping division sales rise 24% to $8.6 billion. Microsoft's productivity and business unit, which includes is Office 365 suite of products, saw sales rise 19% to $9.8 billion while personal computing revenues, which includes Xbox gaming consoles, grew 15% to $10.7 billion.
"We saw strength across each of our segments with strong sales execution by our partners and sales teams," CFO Amy Hood told investors on a conference call late Wednesday. "Customer demand for our hybrid and cloud offerings drove the quarter and we continued to benefit from favorable macroeconomic and IT spending trends"
Microsoft shares were marked 4.4% higher at $106.85 at the start of trading Thursday a move that extends the stock's year-to-date advance past 24% and values the Redmond, Wash.-based group at more than $805 billion.
Overall first quarter earnings hits $1.14 per share, the company said, topping analysts' expectations of 96 cents per share, while its topline rose to $29.08 billion.
Credit Suisse said the strong results "reinforce our thesis that Microsoft will be a primary beneficiary of a migration to hybrid cloud environments and is uniquely positioned vs. other hyper scale competitors given its hybrid architectural advantage."
Microsoft's "Azure" cloud business has been able to increase its market share steadily and is currently second behind Amazon Inc.'s (AMZN) "AWS" cloud platform in terms of market share.
"We like the solid revenue growth we are seeing in Azure and believe the longer-term customer commitments speaks to the product improvements we have been hearing about in recent months," said Zev Fima, analyst for Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus Portfolio, which owns Microsoft. "These commitments should give investors more confidence in future earnings and help push the stock higher at a time when data center growth is in question -- a view we have disagreed with."
"Microsoft remains one of the most attractive ways to play the cloud thanks to its relatively low P/E compared to Amazon and best-in-class hybrid model," he added.
Amazon Web Services currently has a 41.5% share of the cloud market, according to a recent report from Cloud Security Alliance, which is down from the more than 60% market share it enjoyed at the end of 2017. Meanwhile Microsoft's Azure has increased its market share to 29.4%.
Amazon reports its own third quarter earnings after the close of trading today, with analysts anticipating a 31% increase in overall revenues to $57.1 billion an a bottom line of $3.11 per share.
Tech peer Alphabet (GOOGL) , the parent company of Google, will also report earnings for the three months ending in September after the bell, with expectations that group revenue, which is largely driven by adverstizing dollars, will rise 27% to $34 billion and deliver bottom line growth of 87% t0 $10.40 per share.