Shares of Amazon and Microsoft soared toward record highs on Friday, bolstered by strong financial results that had Wall Street analysts scrambling to revise their already sunny forecasts for the technology giants. The stock surge pushed Jeff Bezos’ wealth past Bill Gates’.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos captured the title of the world’s richest person, hurtling past Microsoft counterpart Bill Gates, as the value of his stake in the online retailer surged after an upbeat earnings report.
Shares of both Amazon and Microsoft climbed to record highs Friday, bolstered by strong quarterly financial results that had Wall Street analysts scrambling to revise their already sunny forecasts for the technology giants.
Amazon’s stock jumped 13.2 percent, to $1,100.95. That made Microsoft’s healthy gain — 6.4 percent, to $83.81 a share — look meager by comparison. It also made Bezos the world’s richest man, by Bloomberg News calculations, a title he had briefly held earlier this year when Amazon shares crested above $1,000 a share in July.
Bloomberg valued Bezos’ fortune at $93.8 billion at Friday’s close, after a gain of more than $28.5 billion this year tied to his stake of about 16 percent in Amazon. Gates, worth $88.7 billion, has seen his wealth grow $6.3 billion in 2017 even after a donation of $4.6 billion in Microsoft stock to the foundation that bears his name. (Had he not made his move into philanthropy two decades ago, Bloomberg figures, the Microsoft founder would be worth $150 billion.)
Other tech companies with strong earnings reports, including Google parent Alphabet and Intel, also climbed sharply Friday, helping to push the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index up 2.2 percent to an all-time high.
Amazon, as is its habit, didn’t deliver much profit in the most recent quarter, netting $256 million on record sales of $43.7 billion.
But investors are betting that the company’s dominant position in U.S. online retail and its track record of winning new markets mean Amazon could reap greater rewards later.
“The company has demonstrated that it can deliver significant profits when it chooses to,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.
The Seattle company’s quarterly sales, compared to the previous year, have climbed by an average 29 percent during the last seven years.
Looking at that consistency, Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, views the company as occupying a new investment category.
Just as Wall Street rewards makers of consumer staples — food and other essential items — with relatively high share prices because of their reliable growth, Amazon is what might be called an “internet staple.”
One difference: Amazon’s growth is much stronger than typical consumer-goods makers.
Microsoft posted its own solid quarter, exceeding analysts’ expectations and reaching a goal it promised Wall Street two years ago. Microsoft’s commercial cloud — Office 365, the Azure cloud-computing platform, and other software sold via the web to businesses — was humming along at the end of the quarter at a rate that, over a full year, would bring in $20.4 billion in revenue.
“The cloud story at Microsoft is showing no signs of abating,” said Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer with research firm GBH Insights. The company, he said, is “hitting on all cylinders.”
Microsoft also seemed on the verge of winning over one of its longtime skeptics.
John DiFucci — who’s tracked the company for years, currently for investment bank Jefferies — has long warned that Microsoft remained too dependent on Windows and Office sales tied to a crumbling personal- computer market.
Increasingly, that’s been a contrarian view, but DiFucci has held fast to his “underperform” rating on the company.
“Maybe this company has turned into the forward-looking behemoth and execution machine that everyone else on this planet has seen for a while now,” DiFucci wrote in a note to clients after Microsoft’s earnings. “The results sure seem to indicate so.”
Still, DiFucci is no bull. “We also think there is risk here.”
DiFucci raised his price target for Microsoft by $8 — to $57 a share, or 32 percent lower than the stock’s price Friday.