Stocks were up Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) closing at a record high and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) essentially flat.
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Today's stock market
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Interest rates reversed course and fell today, dinging bank stocks; the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEMKT: KBE) lost 1.7%. Gold mining stocks advanced, and the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT: GDX) gained 2.6%.
As for individual stocks, AT&T (NYSE: T) rose on unexpectedly high profits and Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD) jumped on strong sales of premium chips.
AT&T dials up higher profits
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Telecom giant AT&T pleased investors with second-quarter profits that exceeded expectations, and the stock jumped 5%. Revenue totaled $39.8 billion, a 1.7% drop from a year earlier, but in line with analyst estimates. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.79, an increase of 9.7% and $0.06 more than what Wall Street was looking for.
Although revenue has been challenged by declining wireline services, fewer wireless phone upgrades, and unlimited data plans, the company achieved better profitability through cost-cutting efforts, improving its operating margin 1.5 percentage points compared with last year (disregarding one-time events and amortization). Despite stiff competition, AT&T added 2.8 million wireless subscribers and achieved its best-ever postpaid phone churn of 0.79%.
In the press release, CEO Randall Stephenson said: "[I]n a quarter where our competitors used promotions aggressively, we added more than 500,000 branded smartphones to our base and more than 100,000 IP broadband subscribers, achieved record EBITDA wireless margins and had the lowest postpaid phone churn in our history."
AT&T's 2015 acquisition of DIRECTV appears to be paying off, despite the cord-cutting trend. Traditional video subscribers fell, but the company is having success selling its over-the-top video offering, DIRECTV NOW, and getting more value out of customer accounts by bundling wireless, internet, and DIRECTV.
Still ahead for AT&T is the megamerger with Time Warner -- on track for completion by the end of the year, according to management -- but investors seem to be warming up to the changes this Dividend Aristocrat has made already.
AMD boasts higher chip sales
AMD reported better-than-expected quarterly results on the strength of its high-powered graphics processors and a new family of chips for desktop computers. Revenue was $1.22 billion, up 18% from last year and better than the $1.16 billion that analysts were expecting. The company earned $0.02 per share compared with a loss of $0.05 last year, with analysts expecting a breakeven quarter. The stock rose as much as 10.9% on the news, ultimately settling to a 4.6% gain.
The computing and graphics segment grew revenue 51% to $659 million, thanks to the first full quarter of shipments of the Ryzen family of CPUs and higher volumes and prices for its Radeon graphics chips, which are seeing strong demand driven by gaming and cryptocurrency mining. Gross margin was up 2 percentage points over last year due to a higher mix of premium chips in high-performance applications.
"Our Ryzen desktop processors, Vega GPUs, and EPYC datacenter products have received tremendous industry recognition," said CEO Dr. Lisa Su in the press release. "We are very pleased with our improved financial performance, including double digit revenue growth and year-over-year gross margin expansion on the strength of our new products."
Today's investor reaction stands in stark contrast to what followed AMD's first-quarter report, when the stock tumbled 24% in a single day. The results this quarter seem to indicate that the company is taking share in desktop processors from rival Intel at the same time it is successfully going toe-to-toe with NVDIA in the lucrative market for high-end graphics processors.
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