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Market scorecard

US markets rebounded strongly yesterday, with tech stocks taking the lead. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite broke a two-day losing streak. Among the winners were Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM ) (+9.7%), Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA ) (+3.3%), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) (+3.2%), and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) (+2.7%).

In company news, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) surged 6% in after-hours trading thanks to stronger-than-expected sales last quarter and the unveiling of the largest share buyback in US history - $110 billion. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) spiked by a remarkable 14.6% in late trading as its revenue soared 22%, surpassing all expectations. Lastly, Paramount shares rose 13% after reports that Sony Pictures and private equity titan Apollo Global Management had submitted a $26 billion all-cash bid for the company.

Izolo, the JSE All-share closed down 0.04%, but the S&P 500 rose 0.91%, and the Nasdaq was 1.51% higher. What a volatile, crazy week this has been. Still one more session to go.

Michael's musings

On Tuesday Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) released a strong set of numbers, with AWS' growth accelerating to 17%, and advertising revenue up by over 24%. AWS is an important cash and profit generator for Amazon, and an acceleration in revenue growth is an important change. According to management, AWS customers are spending more on services for AI technology applications like chatbots and data-crunching tools.

Amazon's total revenue increased by 13% to $143 billion and operating income increased by 218% to $15 billion year-over-year. After Covid, Amazon needed to go through a bit of restructuring which hit margins, but now that those changes are behind us. Free cash flow improved to $50 billion inflow versus an outflow of $3.3 billion last year; they are printing money.

Advertising is another important, high-margin division for Amazon, which saw revenue grow to $11 billion for the quarter. Not so long ago, advertising wasn't even mentioned, and now it is a $4 billion-a-month business. This just shows what these companies can do with their large customer bases.

Our only disappointment was that Amazon didn't follow Meta (NASDAQ: META ) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) in deciding to start paying a dividend. Amazon is still investing heavily in the company's future. Maybe next time.

Amazon is trading close to its all-time high, but remains a strong buy.

One thing, from Paul

Here's some really basic life advice for a Friday. Don't buy stuff you don't need, just because you think you might use it later. If you start thinking like that, you'll end up a crazy hoarder, buried under all of your useless crap.

Don't buy extra garments, and store them for the future. Don't buy clothes that don't fit. Dispose of items that you don't like, or those that are damaged. If you haven't worn something for 6 months, give it away.

Don't buy household items that you won't use immediately. In other words, don't save the good plates for special occasions. Those moments might never happen; just use the best set today, and whenever you can. Give away the rest.

Aim for a minimum number of high-quality possessions. If you own something that is rare and fine, treasure it, use it, repair it and in the end, if it is really worn out, replace it.

Bright's banter

Hermes reported a 17% increase in first-quarter sales last week, maintaining its rapid growth momentum from the previous quarter, particularly in China, and highlighting the strong demand for high-end luxury goods.

This growth surpassed expectations and outpaced larger rival LVMH (EPA: LVMH ), underscoring the resilience of businesses operating in the top end of the market.

Sales reached EUR 3.81 billion ($4.08 billion) for the first quarter, surpassing expectations. Initially, shares in Paris rose by as much as 1.3%, but later retraced those gains. They are still up more than 18% since the beginning of the year.

In the key Asia Pacific market, excluding Japan, Hermes saw a substantial 14% surge in revenue to EUR 1.92 billion during the period. Additionally, its leather goods and saddlery division experienced a remarkable 20% growth.

The luxury sector, particularly Hermes, stands out to me as an investment opportunity. Hermes boasts profit margins that rival those of tech giants, with minimal competition in the ultra-high-end luxury handbag market. Their mastery lies in the ability to maintain exclusivity and scarcity of iconic items like the Birkin and Kelly bags.

Signing off

Asian markets are in the green this morning with Hong Kong gaining for the ninth straight session. Alibaba (NYSE: BABA ) (+3.4%), Tencent (HK: 0700 ) (+0.4%) and JD.com (NASDAQ: JD ) (+4.3%) touched new 2024 highs.

Benchmarks also rose in India and South Korea as technology companies rallied across the board. The Japanese market is closed for Constitution Memorial Day.

US equity futures are up pre-market. The Rand is trading at around R18.55 to the greenback.

Later today, we're expecting the release of US nonfarm payroll data. According to economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the forecast is for a gain of 240 000 jobs. If this holds true, it would mark the slowest pace of growth since November.

Have a good weekend.

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