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Analysis: Big Tech strengthening its hold on us in time of COVID-19 – WRAL Tech Wire


America’s tech companies are strengthening their hold on the economy during the coronavirus crisis — though for investors, some results look better than others.

What’s happening

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet all reported impressive results on Thursday for the July to September period. Their ability to generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue during a pandemic has made these companies the envy of Wall Street, which predicts Big Tech will continue to benefit from changes to daily life caused by COVID-19.

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Expectations are so high for these companies, however, that their stocks are extremely sensitive. Shares of Apple are down 4% in premarket trading, while Facebook and Amazon are off about 1%. Google’s stock is rallying 7%.

Breaking it down:

  • Apple: The iPhone maker reported nearly $65 billion in revenue for the quarter, up 1% from the same period last year and $1 billion ahead of what analysts had expected. But iPhone sales disappointed due to a delay in the release of the iPhone 12, which is expected to drive a wave of new purchases.
  • Facebook: Facebook’s revenue jumped 22% over the previous year to $21.5 billion, also beating analysts’ forecasts. Yet the huge bump in usage that the company experienced early in the pandemic appears to be waning. Daily and monthly active users in the US and Canada, a core market, declined slightly in the third quarter.
  • Amazon: Amazon’s sales grew 37% to $96 billion year-over-year (yes, you read that correctly). Profit increased 197% to more than $6 billion. “There is no doubt that Amazon’s latest results show it continues to be a winner from disruption caused by the pandemic,” Neil Saunders, analyst at GlobalData Retail, told clients.
  • Google: Parent Alphabet reported revenue of $46 billion — a 14% increase from the same period last year. The company made more than $11 billion in profit. The report marks a strong turnaround from the previous quarter, when Alphabet posted its first revenue decline in history as online ad spending dropped in the early days of the pandemic. Between July and September, Google’s advertising revenue jumped nearly 10% year-on-year, with search advertising revenue growing 6.5% and YouTube ad revenue surging 32%.
Big picture

Even if some results aren’t playing as well this morning, on a macro level, tech’s top companies are clearly emerging from a tumultuous economic period with even more clout. This helps justify their growing importance to US stock markets, but likely won’t stop warnings that their dominance creates vulnerabilities. (Just think: If Apple were to really tumble, it could take the market down with it.)

On the radar

Strong earnings in a tough environment could also ramp up calls in Washington for greater regulation.

Google’s results are particularly awkward given that the US Justice Department has brought a huge antitrust lawsuit against the company. One has to wonder: Will blockbuster revenue make it harder for Google to argue that it doesn’t have a lock on the search market?





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