For investors, the tech sector or otherwise, the fiscal cliff continues to remain being the hot button issue. However, despite the looming spending cuts and tax increases, the tech sector continues to show signs of strength. Broad measures like the Technology Select SPDR (ARCA:XLK) have held strong in the wake of the cliff talks. Driving by continued merger activity, strong consumer electronic sales and new innovation, the technology sector promises to deliver in the weeks ahead.
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Cyber Monday Is a Hit
One of the bright spots for the general economy has been the record breaking numbers of the Black Friday sales. Well, it seems that the tech sector is also enjoying those spoils. The Internet shopping holiday know as Cyber Monday also produced record sales numbers. According to online data provider ComScore, ecommerce spending for the first 30 days of the 2012 holiday season amounted to more than $20.4 billion. That's a 15% increase versus a year ago. Cyber Monday alone produced a record $1.46 billion in sales, while the follow Tuesday and Wednesday also produced billion dollar days.
Enticed by free-shipping deals at websites like Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) and eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY), consumers have taken to the Internet for their shopping experience. During the first five weeks of the holiday season, consumers spent an average of 42% more on free shipping transactions than on paid shipping. What's more impressive is that mobile shopping from tablet PCs and smartphones surged so far this year.
With plenty of time left before Christmas, analysts predict that this could finally be the year when ecommerce moves into the real mainstream and gives traditional brick and mortar retail a run for its money.
The Daily Is no More
While consumers love to shop via their smartphones, apparently reading news isn't one of their favorite activities. Integrated media giant News Corp (Nasdaq:NWS, NWSA) has decided to shut down its iPhone and iPad only publication The Daily on December 15. The newspaper in an app was launched in 2011 to much fanfare. However, over time the venture continued to lose money and subscribers.
At the time of its launch, The Daily represented the "future" of publishing as a way for traditional newspaper publishers to survive in the digital age. The app-paper tackled a host of areas, including technology, general news and sports and came with a daily subscription rate of 99 cents or an annual fee of $39.99. Unfortunately, with News Corp planning to split into two divisions, the money losing paper will need to be folded.
Social media kingpin, and lousy initial public offering, Facebook (Nasdaq:FB) has been making waves this past week. First, the website reached an agreement with games provider Zynga (Nasdaq:ZNGA) to end its privileged status. While the deal was seen as a win for Facebook - it can now attract other game developers - investors in Zynga are reeling. The game maker relies on Facebook for roughly 80% of its revenue. News of the deal sent shares down as much as 10%.
Also positive for Facebook was the rumor of another big acquisition - similar to its purchase of Instagram. Reported by TechCrunch, the social media site is rumored to be in talks to buy cross-platform chat program, WhatsApp. The company provides a smartphone app for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian and Windows smartphone devices that delivers text messages, as well as images, audio and video messages. WhatsApp has roughly 100 million daily users across 250 countries.
Finally, consumers may be going to Staples (Nasdaq:SPLS) to make more than just photocopies. The company announced that it will have 3D printing in stores in the near future. Technologies from companies like 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys have brought 3D printing mainstream and diving done costs. While costs for services have not been announced, the Staples deal with Mcor will make it the first retail chain to offer these services to individuals and business clients. Overall, the move by an established corporation to offer 3D printing further legitimizes the adoption of the rapidly growing technology. Analysts expect more photocopy and business logistics centers to follow suit.
The Bottom Line
With December finally here, the technology sector continues to be strong in the face of the looming cliff. Deals continue to get done, while consumers continue to spend online. At the same time, the sector continues to push the boundaries of new technologies and services. All in all, as the last month of 2012 begins, tech is poised to dominate in the new year.
At the time of writing, Aaron Levitt did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.