How Apple & Google Transformed into a Systemic Risk to the US Stock Market

According to Credit Suisse strategists, the “reversal of fortunes” seen by tech behemoths Apple and Google-parent Alphabet are dragging down the performance of the overall US stock market. The S&P 500 forecast has been “skewed” by companies suddenly transitioning from high growth forecasts to much more modest outlooks.

This Bad Apple Could Roil the S&P 500

An “unusually high” number of big US companies have revised previously-bullish earnings forecasts downwards. These include Alphabet and Apple, as well as Exxon Mobile, GM, Micron, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. Oil and technology companies are also pushing US stock market growth downward.

The S&P 500, according to Refinitiv, will now only grow by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2019 compared to 23% in all four quarters of 2018. Overall S&P 500 growth for 2019 is now expected to be 4.5%.

Apple, Alphabet, and Others See a Reversal of Fortune in 2019 Impacting the US Stock Market | Source: Credit Suisse

There have only been three other times since 1990 that so many companies have seen such a reversal of growth. Per the chart above, 71 quarters have seen two or fewer top 20 growth contributors move to the worst-performing segment. Thirty-five quarters have seen less than a handful of companies reverse so rapidly, and just three have seen more than seven do so, including the first quarter of 2019.

Cited in CNBC, Patrick Palfrey, a US equities strategist at Credit Suisse, says:

“For the typical company, are they seeing a problem? The answer is not really. You can get a few bad apples distort the underlying trend.”

US Stock Market at Mercy of Mega Companies and Tax Cuts

Palfrey believes other companies on the S&P 500 are growing at between 5% and 6%, adding:

“There is this massive skew for these mega cap companies that had really great years, over the past several years and in 2019, the trends are uninspiring for them.”

Credit Suisse also points to the importance of Trump’s recent tax cuts in skewing stock market growth. The cuts added 7% to 8% to earnings growth in 2018 but are now acting as a headwind, dropping profit growth by 1%. Benefits included last year, like deductions for capital expenditures, are no longer available.

Breaking Down Growth Struggles at Apple and Google

Apple reported profit growth of over 40% in the third-quarter of 2018 and is now expected to see a 12.3% decline. Alphabet’s profits grew 23.9% in the third-quarter of 2018 but are likely to fall 21% in the first quarter of 2019.

S&P 500 (Blue) Apple (Red) Alphabet (Orange) Performance Over the Last Year Source: TradingView

The two have moved from being at the top of the S&P 500 for growth to the bottom 20%. They are joined by Exxon Mobil – dropping from 51% growth to a 14.5% decline – and Chevron, dropping from 148% growth to a 21% decline for the same period.

Apple’s ability to swing the US stock market has never been in doubt. Its shocking sales forecast revision in early January dropped its own share price 10% and sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting by a whopping 500 points. Apple and Microsoft are still battling to be America’s largest company by market value and are closely followed by Alphabet and Amazon.

These Silicon Valley giants helped propel the US stock market to record highs in 2018, but as the economy moves deeper into 2019, they may prove to be its greatest foil.


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Author: Melanie Kramer
Image Credit: Featured Image from AP Photo / dapd, Martin Oeser

Elon Musk’s Bad Week Gets Worse as SpaceX Lays off 600 People

SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, is laying off 10 percent of its 6,000-employee workforce. The layoffs are part of a move to streamline the business and cut costs.

“SpaceX must become a leaner company,” President Gwynne Shotwell wrote in a Friday email. The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

‘Extraordinarily Difficult Challenges Ahead’

Shotwell explained:

This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary.

The company is providing a minimum of eight weeks’ pay and other benefits to the fired workers.

SpaceX is streamlining to prepare for “difficult challenges ahead.” (Twitter)

Investors Dazzled by SpaceX

Elon Musk — the billionaire founder of electric-car company Tesla — launched SpaceX in 2002 to make space travel accessible to everyday people. In addition, SpaceX’s goal is to colonize Mars.

Equidate’s Robert Hilmer says SpaceX is one of the most valuable private companies in the world, with the potential to raise an “unlimited amount” of capital.

“SpaceX is one of [the most] popular pre-IPO tech companies globally,” Hilmer told CNBC.

Everywhere I travel around the world, investors of all types — individuals, family offices, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds or private equity — want to get into SpaceX.

Meanwhile, Musk is taking the downsizing in stride.

He has not commented on the layoffs, preferring instead to focus on upcoming space launches.

The South African business mogul is more concerned that SpaceX’s newest test flight rocket has a cool, aerodynamic design.

“Obv must be more pointy tho,” Musk tweeted, in reference to the tip of the rocket.

Musk is an unwitting media darling who generates countless headlines. In August 2018, Musk stirred a volcanic backlash from Tesla investors after tweeting that he might take his car company private.

Weeks later, the SEC sued Musk for securities fraud, claiming his errant tweet caused Tesla stock to spike 6 percent that day. Shareholders were enraged when Tesla shares abruptly tanked in the following days.

The debacle forced Musk to step down as chairman in September 2018 and pay a $20 million fine to the SEC.

Elon Musk: I am Not Satoshi Nakamoto

Despite being a technophile, Elon Musk does not own crypto, as CCN reported.

“I literally own zero cryptocurrency, apart from .25 BTC that a friend sent me many years ago,” Musk confessed on Twitter.

In November 2017, Musk denied speculation that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin. A former SpaceX intern inadvertently started the rumor with a blog post.

Sahil Gupta wrote at Medium: “Satoshi is probably Elon.”

Elon is a self-taught polymath. He’s repeatedly innovated across fields by reading books on a subject and applying the knowledge.

It’s how he built rockets, invented the Hyperloop (which he released to the world as a paper), and could have invented Bitcoin.

Musk responded by denying that he invented Bitcoin. Meanwhile, the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto has never been confirmed.


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Author: Joseph Young
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Tesla Isn’t the Best Stock to Buy to Play the Extinction of Gas Engines

The internal combustion engine is on its way out for luxury car brands, and it’s a big opportunity for investors in chip stocks like Monolithic Power Systems.

Listen closely. It’s the sounds you don’t hear that count. The electric car revolution is happening.

Balding and mustachioed, Dieter Zetsche does not look the part of a futurist. Still, the Mercedes-Benz chief is pushing the 92-year old automaker headlong into the future. It’s electric.

The internal combustion engine is on its way out, and it’s a big opportunity for investors.

Electric propulsion has been softly creeping up on us for years. Prior to the new millennia, Toyota’s (TM) Prius was a hit with the Sierra Club set. Tesla (TSLA)  pushed the market beyond green patrons with a fleet of no compromise electric vehicles. A Tesla SUV recently crushed a $530,000 gas swilling Lamborghini. I commute on an electric performance motorcycle made in Santa Cruz, Calif., called the Zero S. Electric has also piqued the interest of luxury car markers

In addition to the 2019 Mercedes EQC, all electric SUV, Porsche is bringing Taycan to market. The head turning, swooped, stretched Targa sports car looks more concept than reality. And the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace are muscular EV crossovers that look fast even when they are parked.

These vehicles are not supposed to be for soccer moms. They are designed for eye-stabbing flashes of neon light. They beg for drivers with a heavy foot.

They are being called Tesla killers, but this characterization misses the point.

The Trade

The Silicon Valley carmaker is an easy target. It has been plagued with production woes since inception. It can’t keep top brass, and Elon Musk, its brilliant chief executive, is an emotional mess eager to please. Too often, the result is over-promise.

The Germans are promise keepers. They know how to make cars. But they are not going to kill Tesla, at least not intentionally. In a way, they are surrendering to Musk’s vision of the future of cars. They are migrating production to electric propulsion.


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Author: Jon Markman
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