NEW YORK (
) -- Earnings season for tech companies has been hit or miss so far but
looks primed to pick up some of the slack despite a global PC slowdown amid a struggling economy.
Worldwide PC shipments grew 3.2% last quarter, which was lower than expected because of increased competition from lower priced tablets and smartphones, according to Gartner, but Collins Stewart said in a research note Wednesday that strength from corporate buying to upgrade to Windows 7 should offset softness on the consumer side for Microsoft.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
"PC market data points suggest a continuation of several trends for the first half of this year, with weakness in consumer demand in developed markets being offset by growth in businesses and in emerging markets," the firm wrote. "Still PCs should show improving Y/Y
year-over-year growth relative to recent quarters, as Gartner last week indicated PC market growth of 3% (versus a 2% Y/Y decline in the first half of C2011), and comparisons ease more so for MSFT in future quarters."
Analysts expect Microsoft to report earnings of 68 cents per share and revenue of $17.25 billion in the September-ended quarter. The Dow component has topped Wall Street's consensus view in every quarter for the past two years, delivering an average upside surprise of 15.4% over that span.
Here are five reasons to buy Microsoft right now:
posted solid third-quarter earnings this week, outpacing Wall Street estimates by nearly 7% and issuing an optimistic forecast for the current period.
Enterprise PC demand remains strong, as does consumer demand in emerging markets, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said.
The semiconductor giant said it sees revenue of $14.7 billion for the December-ending quarter, ahead of the current consensus estimate of $14.25 billion. That forecast puts Intel on pace to deliver fiscal 2011 revenue of $55 billion, which would be up 26% from last year.
Intel's results are a good sign for Microsoft, as the no. 1 chip maker typically acts as a barometer for the health of the PC market.
Windows 8 Upside
While Microsoft's new tablet operating system Windows 8 isn't expected to be out until next year, hardware manufacturers are already betting on it.
, which has released Android-based tablets in the past, for one believes that, while the tablet market remains dominated by
iPad, Microsoft is a worthy competitor.
"Microsoft has a good shot with Windows 8," CEO Michael Dell said this week at a conference.
Dell is rumored to be developing Windows 8 tablets, as is
, as tablet makers look for ways to differentiate themselves from the mass of Android-based devices flooding the market.
Consistency in Turbulent Times
While other tech companies have seen their share prices rocked by market turbulence, Microsoft's stock hasn't gotten caught up in the volatility.
While the stock is off roughly 2% year-to-date, it's up 7% in the past year, and it's actually done well since mid-summer -- when the broad market began to tank -- bouncing more than 12% at current levels since scraping a 52-week low of $23.65 on June 16.
Even in the last 10 years Microsoft shares haven't wavered much, apart from when the markets tanked in 2009 following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Understanding that some shareholders might want to be rewarded a bit more for their investment in the company, Microsoft last month upped quarterly dividend by 25% to 20 cents a share, implying a forward annual yield of 2.9% based on Wednesday's close at $27.13.
This gives Microsoft one of the highest dividend yields among large tech companies, which have historically shied away from issuing the payments to shareholders, and it's also much better than the current 2.1% yield on the 10-year Treasury bond.
Potential Bargain Deal for Yahoo!
turned down a $44 billion acquisition offer from Microsoft. The move caused outrage from Yahoo! shareholders and led to founder and then-CEO Jerry Yang stepping down.
Fast forward three years later: Yahoo! is valued at less than half of Microsoft's bid, CEO Carol Bartz
has been pushed out of the company
and the company is struggling to maintain its core display ad business amid competition from
, could swoop in now and gain heavily trafficked properties like Yahoo! Finance at a much lower price than back in 2008.
Power of Skype
Microsoft's $8.5 billion deal to acquire Internet telephony company
finally closed this month five months after the transaction was announced.
The move puts Microsoft in the telecommunications space for the first time and brings new opportunities for consumers. Potential benefits of Skype include integration within Microsoft's Office suite--which would allow for video conferencing-- as well as within new Windows Phone 7 phones for mobile video chats.
Written by Olivia Oran in New York
>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to
>To submit a news tip, send an email to: