NEW YORK (RealMoneyPro) -- The deluge of first-quarter earnings reports will continue this week. So far, despite tepid year-over-year results on both the revenue and earnings side, the market has continued to post gains, with both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closing at all-time highs on Friday. Expect to see further impact from the strong dollar in the latest reports as well as conservative guidance.
Along with most investors, I will be watching results closely, especially those of two of my core large-cap growth holdings, Apple (AAPL) - Get Report and Gilead Sciences (GILD) - Get Report, which are set to report this week.
Apple reports after the bell on Monday. The current consensus estimate calls for earnings per share of $2.16. This would be down from EPS of over $3.00 it reported in the holiday-driven fourth quarter, but up substantially from the $1.66 the giant from Cupertino, Calif. delivered in the same period a year ago. The report should dominate conversation throughout Monday on CNBC and in the financial press as Apple's results are always a highlight of every earnings season.
I think the focus will be on two items this quarter. First, investors will be watching to see how many new iPhones the company sold in the quarter. The consensus seems to be between 45 million to 55 million units, although I have seen estimates as high as 60 million and 65 million. Apple sold nearly 75 million iPhones in the previous quarter.
Second, and probably more importantly, analysts will be listening closely to what new capital allocation plans Apple has for its over $100 billion cash hoard. Dividend increases and stock buybacks have been key drivers of the stock's remarkable rise since its recent nadir in June 2013. I expect a dividend hike in the high single digits or low teens, and analysts will also be looking for any color on additional stock repurchase plans.
Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences will report quarterly numbers on Thursday. Expectations are for this biotech juggernaut to post EPS of $2.31, up substantially from $1.48 in the same period last year, on the back of hepatitis C blockbusters Sovaldi and Harvoni. Gilead recently announced that it will soon initiate its first dividend and also buy back some $15 billion in stock over the next few years, so capital allocation decisions will not be on the radar this quarter like for Apple.
The focus of Gilead's conference call will be around Sovaldi/Harvoni. On investors' minds will be the latest script data, the average discount being given, and progress that AbbVie's(ABBV) - Get Report Viekira Pak and other competitors are making in the hepatitis C space. Hopefully, earnings and comments by management will be enough to get this stock moving again as the shares have been trading in a relatively tight trading range over the past nine months.
Solid earnings reports could trigger the next stage up for these large-cap growth plays. Any dips caused by results should be utilized to add more shares as both stocks should be core positions in any long-term growth portfolio.
Both Apple and Gilead are selling at very reasonable valuations, are showing solid growth in earnings and revenues, and have impressive and growing free cash flow.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held long positions in Apple and Gilead.