MSFT vs. AAPL: The Race to $4 Trillion Is Tech’s Super Bowl

Stock Market

It’s a notable week for tech earnings. Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META), Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) all are set to report their latest results. But the biggest highlights of the week are the numbers due out from the two most valuable companies on the planet: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Microsoft is currently worth a little more than $3 trillion and is trading at an all-time high. Apple’s market cap is just a hair under $3 trillion. The two stocks have been leaders in the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the past year, but Microsoft has done significantly better than Apple. MSFT stock has surged 65% in the last 12 months, more than doubling the nearly 30% gain of AAPL stock during that same time frame.

So, forget about the upcoming big game on the gridiron between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. The battle between Redmond and Cupertino is the tech sector’s Super Bowl. Will Microsoft extend its market cap lead over the maker of iEverything once earnings for both tech juggernauts come out later this week?

Microsoft and Apple Face Off to $4 Trillion… and Beyond

Of course, a lot will depend on whether Microsoft and Apple beat, meet or miss Wall Street’s expectations. For what it’s worth, Microsoft, which will report its latest results after the closing bell later today, appears to have more momentum heading into earnings. Analysts are forecasting a nearly 7% jump in revenue for Microsoft from a year ago and an earnings per share increase of 11%. Apple, on the other hand, is expected to report a sales decline of more than 7% from the same period last year and profit gain of only about 3%.

Analysts will be paying close attention to what Microsoft has to say about its cloud and artificial intelligence businesses. CEO Satya Nadella touted AI several times during the company’s last earnings call in October. The company has close ties with… and a big investment in… Sam Altman’s OpenAI, the developer of the popular ChatGPT bot.

Apple, on the other hand, seems like a company in transition. Sales of iPhones, despite the recent iPhone 15 launch, are starting to mature. As such, Apple is relying more and more on services, subscriptions to things like iCloud and Apple Music, to boost sales.

But Apple could have a giant new revenue and profit stream coming soon with the launch of the Vision Pro headset, which is currently being sold for preorder and will be available on Friday, Feb. 2. That is one day after Apple will report earnings. Investors will be looking for CEO Tim Cook and other executives to talk about demand for the Vision Pro… and what the possible future AI applications for it might look like.

Apple uber-bull Dan Ives, who has a Wall Street-high price target of $250 for Apple’s stock, wrote in a report this week that the Vision Pro could be “the first step to Apple pushing into AI and eventually a separate AI App Store.” Ives added that “the ultimate goal… is that Vision Pro will work alongside the iPhone and other Apple devices over the coming years with many consumer AI use cases set to explode across health, fitness, sports content, and autonomous.”

The Bottom Line

If Apple were to hit Ives’ price target, that’s about a 30% increase from current levels and would give Apple a market cap of about $3.9 trillion. The consensus price target for Apple of $205.85 represents just 8% upside though. Analysts are also expecting Microsoft’s stock to rise just 8%. The consensus price target is $443.20. But the most optimistic analyst covering the company has a $600 price target on the shares. That’s about 35% higher and would value Microsoft at $4.1 trillion.

So, it may be only a matter of time before both Microsoft and Apple are worth at least $4 trillion. Then the march to $5 trillion begins.

As of this writing, Paul R. La Monica did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Paul R. La Monica is a veteran financial journalist with nearly 30 years experience (including more than 20 at CNN) covering the stock market and other asset classes, the economy and other corporate and business news.

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