Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Other than Apple, it was a brutal earnings week for Big Tech.
Alphabet, Amazon, Meta and Microsoft combined lost over $350 billion in market cap after offering concerning commentary for the third quarter and the remainder of the year. Between slowing revenue growth — or declines in Meta’s case — and efforts to control costs, the tech giants have found themselves in an unfamiliar position after unbridled growth in the past decade.
Third-quarter results this week came against the backdrop of soaring inflation, rising interest rates and a looming recession. Apple bucked the trend after beating expectations for revenue and profit. The stock on Friday had its best day in over two years.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Meta, which has seen its stock price collapse in 2022. Facebook’s parent came up short on earnings, recorded its lowest average revenue per user in two years and said sales in the fourth quarter will likely decline for a third straight period.
“There are a lot of things going on right now in the business and in the world, and so it’s hard to have a simple ‘We’re going to do this one thing, and that’s going to solve all the issues,'” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s earnings call on Wednesday.
Meta’s stock had its worst week since the company’s IPO in 2012, plunging 24% over the past five days. Microsoft fell 2.6% for the week, due to a 7.7% decline on Wednesday after the company gave weak guidance for the year-end period and missed estimates for cloud revenue.
Things were also bleak at Amazon, which dropped 13%. A gloomy fourth-quarter forecast along with a dramatic slowdown in its cloud-computing unit were largely to blame for the sell-off.
While Amazon Web Services saw expansion slow to 27.5% from 33% in the prior period, Google’s cloud group, which is significantly smaller, sped up to almost 38% growth from around 36%. Google plans to keep spending in cloud even as it intends to rein in headcount overall growth in the next few quarters.
“We are excited about the opportunity, given that businesses and governments are still in the early days of public cloud adoption, and we continue to invest accordingly,” Ruth Porat, Alphabet CFO, said on a conference call with analysts on Tuesday. “We remain focused on the longer-term path to profitability.”
However, results from the rest of Google parent Alphabet were less impressive. The company’s core advertising business grew just slightly, and YouTube’s ad revenue dropped from the prior year. The reverse was true for Amazon, which is playing catchup to Google and Facebook in digital advertising. In Amazon’s ad business, revenue growth accelerated to 30% from 21%, topping analysts’ estimates.
“Advertisers are looking for effective advertising, and our advertising is at the point where consumers are ready to spend,” said Brian Olsavsky, the company’s finance chief. “We have a lot of advantages that we feel that will help both consumers and also our partners like sellers and advertisers.”
Analyst Aaron Kessler at Raymond James lowered his price target on Amazon stock to $130 from $164 after the results. But he maintained his equivalent of a buy rating on the stock and said the company’s “robust advertising growth” has the potential to help Amazon fatten up its margin.
As investors continue to rotate away from tech, they’re finding money-making opportunities in other parts of the market that had previously lagged behind software and internet names. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3% this week, the fourth weekly gain in a row for the index. Prior to 2021, the Dow had underperformed the Nasdaq for five straight years.