From Microsoft to Google to Nokia, it’s Big Tech reporting season

Jan 26: Microsoft kicks off a week of tech business news, plus, the aftermath of the Greek election, and the first bitcoin exchange

This week, it’s all about iPhones, tablets, search engine optimization, plus how many Facebook ads you’re willing to see before you defect to old-fashioned calling and emailing (probably a lot).

That’s right: It’s tech-company reporting season. Microsoft will report second-quarter earnings today and, as the week goes on, we’ll also be sure see lots of think pieces on the fates and rivalries of Apple, Facebook, Samsung, even Nokia.

Oil is also on another slump this morning, barely hanging above $45 as it’s become clear that last week’s power transfer in Saudi Arabia won’t spur a sudden change in OPEC’s production targets. Off the strictly business calendar, there are also two major events today: ongoing coverage of the Greek election, which anti-austerity party SYRIZA won, and anticipation of a major snowstorm expected to hit North America’s east coast later today. New York’s mayor has been warning people to stay home, so keep an eye on the impact this could have on trading in New York.

The week ahead. A short look at what we’re expecting this week: In Canada, the calendar is fairly sparse, but we’ll get some major employment data on Thursday (the survey of employment, payrolls and hours) and, on Friday, real GDP by industry, both for November.

Tomorrow, the EU will weigh more stimulus for the beleaguered Ukraine economy, which is teetering on the brink of default. In the U.S., an interest-rate announcement is expected for Wednesday, and there will be numbers on new home sales and consumer confidence. On Friday, we get to take a look at the fourth-quarter real GDP for the world’s shining economic star.

For company news, there are a lot of very big names reporting this week: Tomorrow is Apple and Yahoo!, Wednesday is Facebook, and Thursday is Google and Samsung. It won’t be just tech names, either: Companies from Visa to Boeing, Siemens, Caterpillar and Royal Dutch Shell will also be reporting.

SYRIZA wins, making Greece’s place in the eurozone debatable. The Greek election—and this particular election result—has been anticipated for a couple of months now, fuelling much debate on whether the party’s pitch to halve Greece’s bailout debt will be successful, something Germany, for one, openly opposes. This morning, SYRIZA teamed up with a right-wing party, gaining a majority coalition after campaigning on austerity-weary Greeks, who are facing debt 175 times their GDP. This has often been framed as a question of whether Greece will leave the eurozone, but that’s something SYRIZA’s leader doesn’t want to do. The even bigger question, then, is what terms for the bailout are going to be possible for both sides, and whether the party’s win could spur anti-austerity parties that are gaining traction in other eurozone countries, particularly Spain and Italy. The move had an immediate effect on markets: The euro dropped to another 11-year low, though it has since regained some of that loss. Safe-haven bonds and currencies, as well as gold, gained on the news, including German bonds, with yields that hit record lows.

Microsoft to report second-quarter earnings. The software giant has been in the news lately for plans to offer its latest platform as a free upgrade. The earnings report is a good chance to look at how the company is faring against Apple and Google. But while it can be easy for iPhone lovers to write off Microsoft, John Heinzl at the Globe points out that shares since 2013 have provided double the returns of the S&P 500, and Microsoft earnings have consistently surprised.

Can I pay for that in bitcoin? The electronic currency could get a major boost in legitimacy today, as the first licensed American bitcoin exchange prepares to launch in New York. The Coinbase exchange has some big backers, including the New York Stock Exchange, and the company wants to operate in 30 countries within the year. The currency’s main problem has been volatility—and a couple of high-profile incidents where the money disappeared—but the NYSE’s president says this is a sign that mainstream backers see bitcoin as on its way to being a “mature” currency.

Will quantitative easing actually work? That’s the big question after the ECB decided to begin quantitative easing last week. We explored the question in the first Weekend Playbook, which will offer a deeper look at an issue or debate currently in the news.

Need to know:
TSX: 14,779.35 (+15.37 points), Friday
Loonie: 80.49  (-0.13 cents), Friday
Oil (WTI): $45.04, Monday morning