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Facebook's Q4 Earns A 'Like' From Some, But Not All Of Wall Street

Facebook's Q4 Earns A 'Like' From Some, But Not All Of Wall Street

Shares of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB) hit a new all-time high of $195.32 Thursday despite some concerning metrics in its fourth quarter earnings report.

Here is a roundup of what some of Wall Street's top analysts are saying after the print.

Morgan Stanley: Early Stages Of Growth

Facebook's fourth quarter ad revenue came in 1 percent better than analysts were expecting, while GAAP EPS was 13 percent better than expected, Morgan Stanley's Brian Nowak said in a note. The company is also working to improve and refine the quality of engagement on the platform, rather than the quantity of engagement. The decrease of 50 million engagement hours on the platform came at the expense of low quality viral videos.

At its core, Nowak said Facebook is a $40 billion annual ad business and making changes to its News Feed is a smart move as it balances any potential impact on society, while simultaneously delivering better than expected advertising monetization.

Bank Of America: 'Sigh Of Relief'

Facebook's user growth metrics came in short of expectations, including a 14 percent growth in daily active users (DAUs), Bank of America's Justin Post said in a note. At the same time, the company showed an acceleration in ad pricing trends and Instagram's momentum remains "solid."

Some investors will continue to be concerned with changes to the News Feed, but Facebook's management team offered commentary that suggests its financial trajectory is "on an even stronger path."

Tigress Financial: Strong 2018 Ahead

Despite a miss in DAUs, mobile advertising revenue continued to grow, Tigress Financial's Ivan Feinseth said in his morning newsletter. As such, the social media company will likely see a strong performance throughout 2018, especially at a time when it is expands video advertising and increases embedded ads in Instagram and Messenger.

Related Link: Facebook's Q4: Were News Feed Fears Overblown?

Baird: Ignore The Headline Risks

Facebook's ongoing headline risk of "fatigue" users remains, but the company's financials tell another story, Baird's Colin Sebastian said in a note. For example, the earnings report consisted of another quarter of "solid" top-line and bottom-line outperformance and continued pricing power in ads suggests any engagement declines will likely be offset by ad product improvements.

Stifel: What's True?

To best understand Facebook's current situation, an advanced degree in human psychology and epistemology may be needed, Stifel's Scott Devitt said. On the one hand, Facebook's financial results were "strong" and ahead of expectations; on the other hand, time spent on the platform fell which management said is by design -- but how can investors be sure this is true?

DAUs in the U.S. and Canada fell for the first time since Facebook started reporting this metric and MAUs were flat, the analyst said. Engagement in the Americas region (DAU/MAU) actually declined by 42 basis points from the prior quarter and overall engagement fell by 30 basis points.

"So what is the truth?," Devitt asked. " We think the right answer may be somewhere between the Facebook management 'it's all by design' narrative and the counter thesis of core Facebook fatigue."

There is no answer to "what is the truth" as there isn't enough information at this time. As such, "someone smarter than us will need to figure this stock out from here."

BMO: Market Overvalues Time

Investors who place emphasis on time spent on Facebook's platform may want to reconsider, BMO Capital Markets' Daniel Salmon said. Specifically, Facebook's changes to its News Feed will "not just be not negative" but could end being a positive for revenue as brands will buy back reach through paid ads. Facebook's margins outlook remains "opaque," however, which warrants a certain degree of caution from investors.

Related Link: Earnings Extravaganza: Apple, Amazon, Among Big Hitters Due Later Today

Price Target And Rating Changes

  • Morgan Stanley's Nowak maintains an Overweight rating on Facebook's stock with a price target boosted from $215 to $230.
  • Bank Of America's Post maintains a Buy rating on Facebook with a price target boosted from $230 to $265.
  • Baird's Sebastian maintains an Outperform rating on Facebook with a price target boosted from $200 to $225.
  • Stifel's Devitt maintains a Hold rating on Facebook with an unchanged $195 price target.
  • BMO's Salmon maintains a Market Perform rating on Facebook with a price target boosted from $170 to $175.

Latest Ratings for FB

Aug 2019AssumesBuy
Jul 2019MaintainsOutperform
Jul 2019MaintainsBuy

View More Analyst Ratings for FB
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