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Wall Street unfriends Facebook, changes channel on Nielsen amid earnings misses

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Wall Street unfriends Facebook, changes channel on Nielsen amid earnings misses

A slew of earnings reports fueled big movement in the technology, media and telecommunications space for the week ended July 27, particularly sending shares in Facebook Inc. and Nielsen Holdings to record lows.

Facebook drove Wall Street into a frenzy after executives on July 25 reported slower-than-expected revenue growth for the quarter and predicted similar growth deceleration during the rest of the year. The social media giant's shares plunged nearly 19% in the day following the earnings report, wiping out over $100 billion in the company's public market value.

The company delivered a 41.9% year-over-year gain in revenue, up to $13.23 billion, versus consensus expectations of about $13.35 billion, according to S&P Capital IQ. That compares to $9.32 billion in revenue reported in the second quarter of 2017.

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Speaking on an earnings call, CFO David Wehner attributed the slowing growth to "currency headwinds" and new privacy options for users, saying that new ad formats, including Facebook's Stories feature, were not collecting the same amount of money as ads shown in the Facebook News Feed.

User figures in Europe fell slightly during the quarter as the European Union's sweeping privacy laws, known as General Data Protection Regulation, took effect in May.

Several analysts labeled the Street's response to Facebook's results as an overreaction and urged investors to take a long-term view of the company's growth.

BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said in a report that he views Facebook's investments in security as a strategy that will pay dividends in 2019 and beyond, adding, "Great companies have strategic goals and know when to sacrifice short-term profits to maximize long-term value creation."

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney said his research suggests there has been no "material change" in advertisers' views of the attractiveness of Facebook platforms.

Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, said in a research note that Facebook has a history of tempering revenue growth and expense expectations "only to turn around and exceed those expectations the following quarter."

As of about midday July 27, Facebook's shares were trading at $175.53, down 16.4% from their July 20 close.

Nielsen's stock tumbled to a 52-week low July 26 after the market research firm missed quarterly expectations and executives lowered financial guidance for the rest of the year. Management cited weakness in global markets and regulatory changes in Europe as reasons for the lowered financial targets.

The company's Buy segment, which primarily consists of retail measurement services, incurred the most significant declines, with revenues down in both emerging and developed markets due to increased weakness in its global multichannel business, particularly in China and Southeast Asia.

The Watch segment, comprising TV, radio, digital and mobile measurement services, reported growth in the quarter, but its results were impacted by GDPR.

Nielsen significantly lowered its guidance for the year. On a constant currency basis, total company revenue is expected to decline by about 1%, Buy is expected to decline by 4.5% and Watch revenue is expected to grow 2.5%.

Nielsen's stock was trading at $22.45 around 12 p.m. ET July 27, down about 25% for the week.

In telecommunications, Comcast Corp. on July 26 reported strong growth in its broadband business during its most recent quarter, boosting investor confidence in both the company and one of its peers.

The cable giant delivered 260,000 broadband net adds in the second quarter, which company President, Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said was Comcast's best second-quarter figure in 10 years. He attributed the growth to Comcast's focus on innovation and differentiation.

Charter Communications Inc. got an approving nod from Wall Street on Comcast's results. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett in a note said Comcast's efforts in strengthening its core offerings have paid dividends. As such, "the best way to play Comcast's strong results is to buy Charter."

Comcast shares were trading at $35.32 midday July 27, up nearly 3% for the week; Charter's stock was trading at $289.63, up 0.27%.

Most recently, CBS Corp. shares were down about 7% at midday July 27, trading at $53.55 following a report that the company's board will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against long-time company Chairman, CEO and President Leslie Moonves.

In a statement, the CBS board said it continues to support "CBS management" as regards the company's ongoing legal dispute with controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc. which has targeted Moonves and several members of CBS' board.