Investors have made cash the only thing that matters in markets. The Dollar is surging and investors are fleeing assets in favor of cash. Cash is a scarce and valuable asset in this downturn, and which companies have a ton of it—tech companies. While the Silicon Valley giants will take a hit from lower consumer spending, the reality is that the shutdown of normal life is pushing things ever more online—their domain. As this crisis eventually abates, giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have huge cash reserves (currently $350 bn) that will help them attract shareholder capital, and also grab market share as competition gets weeded out.
FINSUM: Tech is probably going to be in a stronger position in a year than it was six weeks ago. Their fortress balance sheets will be key.
The market is in a brutal position, everyone knows that. Peak losses hit 19% yesterday, just a hair off a bear market. The reality, though, is that some sectors are thoroughly in a bear market, including the biggest growth driver of them all—tech. The S&P info tech sector is down 20%, while Microsoft is down 20% and Apple 19%. Amazon and Facebook are both down 17%. IBM, Cisco, and older-guard tech companies are getting slaughtered down to the 25%+ range.
FINSUM: Some of these are smart to stay away from, but others could be good buying opportunities. For instance, social media companies are more exposed to consumer spending declines (and resultant advertising declines) that B2B tech companies offering cloud and other software infrastructure that is hard to cut from budgets.
Apple has been deeply wounded by the coronavirus panic. The stock fell as much as 16.5% through the weekend before good gains on Monday. The reality is that this is great time to buy Apple, as shares are offering a big discount just before the next iPhone super cycle begins. According to Wedbush, a leading Apple analyst (and referencing the coronavirus sell-off), “we believe this will be short lived as the longer term 5G super cycle thesis and services re-rating remain the crux of our bull thesis on Apple for the next 12 to 18 months.” Wedbush believes that some 350m of the nearly one billion iPhones out there are “in a window of an upgrade opportunity”.
FINSUM: Apple has a good shot at selling over 200m iPhones in the 12 months starting September 2020, likely breaking its highest sales ever. This is a good time to get ahead of that.
Apple’s stock has suffered significantly last week since it announced that it would likely miss its revenue targets because of the virus outbreak in China. The stock is down 7% since the announcement and there is increasing speculation the damage may not be transient. The whole incident calls into question whether the country is too reliant on China for production (and also for sales). Many Wall Street analysts have pushed lost revenue for this quarter into other quarters, but it is not at all inconceivable to think that some of the sales may be lost permanently as consumers could have bought rival products, or just won’t switch at all (especially those in China).
FINSUM: Apple should probably work to adjust its supply chain as a reaction to this, but that seems unlikely. Hard to tell how this plays out; it depends on the news cycle.
In many ways the coronavirus just became real for stock markets. Up to this point, fears about how the virus might impact the economy and stocks seemed esoteric and intangible. Then this happened: Apple warned that it would miss its quarterly revenue target because of coronavirus. It is having trouble producing phones because of unstaffed Chinese factories. Accordingly, the company announced “iPhone supply shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide”.
FINSUM: This is when the rubber meets the road and it becomes much easier to see how this virus could cause a global recession. The engine of the world (China) is sputtering.
The market seems to be ignoring it, but Facebook is facing a major challenge to its business model. One so big in fact, that it is an esoteric threat to its whole way of making money (not to mention the rest of social media). That challenge is the collective ditching of third party cookies, which are little tools used to track users across sites. Third party cookies are used to assemble profiles of user behavior that then allow Facebook to deliver targeted ads. Since third party cookies are now being phased out by major browsers, Facebook (and other social media companies) are going to have a much tougher time assembling behavioral profiles, and this could ultimately have a cataclysmic effect on revenue and profitability. According to a research analyst, and explained by Barron’s, the big worry is that the decline of cookies—which is being called the “cookiepocalypse—will “will lead to ‘signal loss’ for advertisers, leading to reduced returns on advertising, and then an ‘implosion’ in ad spend by direct-to-consumer advertisers”.
FINSUM: As a publication, we understand this better than most. If Facebook ads are no longer as targeted, then their click-through rates will be worse. When that happens, advertisers will get worse overall results. This will mean they spend less dollars and pricing power will plummet. Facebook is definitely working on a work around, but until there is a concrete solution, this is a big threat.