ETFs React to Tech Earnings

Following the first-quarter’s strong performance, some tech stocks are beginning to give back recent gains. Slower-than-expected earnings from a few of the sector’s bellwether stocks is hitting the market, casting a cloud over what has been an upbeat earnings season.

IBM and Intel ranked among the biggest drags on the Dow as both reported their slowest sales growth in more than two years.

“The trend you should be watching is IBM’s bet against hardware and its focus on software services,” said Jack Gold, J. Gold Associates President and chief analyst. “Hardware is a cut throat business and IBM needs the margins.”

Meanwhile, Qualcomm reported mixed results after the bell on Wednesday. The chipmaker beat expectations but sank after hours on Thursday as third-quarter guidance came in below expectations. However, the stock is still up more than 20% so far this year as much of the company’s profit is generated from licensed patents based on 3G and 4G technology.

So, as tech giants begin to report quarterly results, how are exchange-traded funds and mutual funds fairing?

The S&P North American Technology-Multimedia Networking Index Fund (NYSE:IGN) has been soft in recent sessions, as Qualcomm accounts for the fund’s largest holding, an allocation of 10.3%. The fund’s other top holdings include Cisco, Juniper Networks and Motorola Mobility. But despite the recent drop, IGN has managed to gain nearly 8% so far this year.

Other exchange-traded funds in the spotlight are iShares Dow Jones US Technology (NYSE:IYW) and Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NYSE:SMH).  IShares Dow Jones US Technology’s largest holding is IBM, accounting for 8.8% of the fund. Market Vectors Semiconductor’s largest holding is Intel, accounting for 19.1% of the fund.

IYW and SMH have posted significant overall gains this year, climbing 19.47% and 14.56%, respectively.

Technology focused mutual funds are this year’s top performer, mostly due to Apple’s first-quarter run. The sector’s top performing mutual fund is ProFunds Technology UltraSector, up nearly 30% since January 1.

Despite some trouble in technology, there are also some bright spots on the earnings front. Yahoo reported a rise in quarterly revenue, giving the company its first quarterly sales growth in three years.  Two technology exchange-traded funds to keep an eye on next week include PowerShares QQQ  (NASDAQ:QQQ), the fifth most actively traded U.S. exchange-traded fund according to Morningstar, and  Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLK).  Both QQQ and XLK have a large concentration in Apple.

So, what should we expect from Apple earnings?

“The quarter will be determined around iPhone sales,” said Kevin Dede, Auriga USA communications technology analyst.  “The expectations are for strong iPhone sales over the first three months of the year so people are really excited.”

Apple is reporting earnings after the bell on April 24.