Earnings Watch: Just how much is the AI discourse helping stocks? An analyst scoured earnings calls for clues

Talking about AI alone has been pixie dust for big technology stocks this year. And as executives look for any way to shoehorn AI into their business plans, more S&P 500 index companies during their second quarter earnings calls mentioned “AI” than at any point since at least 2010, according to a report published on Friday.

What’s more, according to the report from FactSet, the companies talking about AI — even the ones that aren’t the big, obvious tech names — have seen their stocks fare better than shares of companies that haven’t.

For S&P 500 companies that mentioned “AI” on their second-quarter earnings calls, shares on average since June 30 dipped 0.8%, while rising 13.3% since Dec. 31, FactSet said. For companies that didn’t talk about AI on those calls, shares on average fell a bit more since the end of June — 2.3% — while inching only 1.5% higher since the end of last year.

“Even excluding the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla), the S&P 500 companies that cited ‘AI’ still outperformed the S&P 500 companies that did not cite ‘AI’ on average during these periods,” FactSet Senior Earnings Analyst John Butters said in the report.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has long believed corporate America’s profits would rebound for the second half of 2023, after a year ruled by anxieties over inflation’s impact on the economy. Still, that collective bounce-back, as it has through this year, will hinge on strong results from the world’s biggest tech players.

Wall Street analysts expect S&P 500 companies to eke out a 0.5% gain in per-share profit growth during the third quarter, according to the FactSet report. If that number holds, it would be the first quarter of earnings growth since the third quarter of last year.

Those potential gains, however, will largely depend on results from Amazon.com Inc.
Meta Platforms Inc.
and Alphabet Inc.

— outsized companies with outsized influence on markets and S&P 500 company financials overall. Financials for those companies have rebounded this year, after big tech retrenched amid a drop-off in pandemic-related digital demand from people spending more time at home and online.

This week in earnings

Three years of supply disruptions have upended the economy and driven prices higher, forcing the Federal Reserve to embark on a delicate effort to bring them lower by discouraging borrowing and spending through a series of interest-rate hikes. But what about the impact on bowling? For answers, we turn to results this week from bowling-alley chain Bowlero Corp.
which saw a jump in demand following the economy’s reopening but now faces questions about that demand as it shows signs of returning to Earth. Convenience-store chain Casey’s General Stores Inc.
and homebuilder Lennar Corp.
also report.

The call to put on your calendar

Adobe results: Digital-media, analytics and design firm Adobe Inc. reports quarterly results on Thursday. But Mizuho analyst Gregg Moskowitz said his focus was on the company’s broader digital transformation.

He cited stronger Web traffic, the potential for more deals with bigger customers, signs of improving trends in Adobe’s
analytics segment, as well as the segment that includes design tools like Photoshop. But he said the company’s moves in generative AI could be “a significant growth driver.” Adobe this year unveiled Firefly, an AI image and text-enhancement model that can be incorporated into Adobe’s software. Moskowitz said that “while very early, our checks indicate an already high level of large customer interest in GenAI projects, including Firefly for Enterprise.” However, he said the company’s $20 billion acquisition of online design platform Figma was still “a big question mark,” as costs and regulatory scrutiny accumulate.

The number to watch

Oracle results, supply situation: Cloud and IT-network developer Oracle Corp.
reports results on Monday. Like much of the tech world, Wall Street sees the company as an AI play. But UBS analysts said that as businesses race to secure the components that power AI, Oracle could have an “underappreciated edge” over rivals.

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