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Apple’s High Note Clears a Low Tech Bar


Apple Inc.

AAPL 8.35%

should probably consider sending a thank-you card to



AMZN -8.18%

Google and


META 1.11%

In what has been a brutal earnings season for big tech, the biggest of them all had the best report. Apple’s revenue and operating earnings for the September quarter that was reported late Thursday came in ahead of Wall Street’s forecasts, and its outlook contained no real negative surprises.

Apple’s shares thus popped about 7% Friday morning—making it the only one of the group to garner a positive reaction from investors. Amazon’s shares fell 10% on Friday following its own report, while Facebook-parent

Meta Platforms

shed one-quarter of its market value the day before. Microsoft and Google-parent


GOOG 3.14%

dropped 8% and 9% respectively following their reports earlier in the week. 

Apple’s results, however, weren’t exactly a blowout. Revenue of $90.1 billion for the fiscal fourth quarter exceeded analysts’ forecasts by less than 2% after averaging a 6.3% beat over the previous 10 quarters. And the two most important business segments—iPhone and services—actually missed analysts’ targets.

Booming Mac sales provided the biggest lift in the quarter, but that won’t last. Chief Financial Officer

Luca Maestri

said on Apple’s call Thursday that the company expects Mac revenue to “decline substantially” on a year-over-year basis in the December quarter due to tough comparisons with the same period last year, which benefited from the launch of the redesigned MacBook Pro model. 

The main driver of investors’ positive reaction to Apple’s results was their lack of surprise. Mr. Maestri warned that revenue growth in the December quarter will decelerate from the 8% year-over-year gain in the September quarter—a dynamic that analysts had already projected.

Google and Meta both surprised investors with high costs given rapidly slowing advertising businesses, while Amazon projected what will be its weakest holiday quarter on record. And both Amazon and Microsoft warned of slowdowns in their vital cloud businesses, as corporate customers are watching their expenditures closely. 

The result has been a costly week for big tech. Even with Apple’s gains Friday, the group of five companies is on track to close the week with a combined net loss in market value of more than $270 billion. And Apple itself isn’t out of the woods. The recently ended quarter contained only a week of sales of the new iPhone 14 models, and reports abound about production cuts and slipping demand just a month into their launch.

IDC estimates that Apple’s iPhone shipments for the September quarter rose only 1.6% year over year—though rival smartphone makers all fared worse with shipment declines for the same period. Big tech’s earnings champion likely won’t have a relaxing holiday season.

Write to Dan Gallagher at [email protected]

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