Google Earnings Smash Sales Records
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Google Earnings Smash Sales Records

YouTube helps power search giant to profits that far exceeded analyst expectations.

By Tripp Mickle
Wed, Apr 28, 2021 1:33pmGrey Clock 3 min

Google’s parent company shattered sales records for the first quarter, fueled by a surge in digital ad spending that has strengthened the tech heavyweight even as regulators try to curtail its power.

The robust earnings reflect advertiser anticipation that the reopening of the economy will coincide with a gusher of business activity, as well as Google’s prominent place at the center of digital commerce.

The pandemic provided a jolt to Alphabet Inc.’s advertising business as more people shifted their lives online during a stay-at-home year, turning to Google search to find takeout meals and grocery-delivery options while clicking through videos on the company’s YouTube platform. Brands responded by shifting ad spending from print, television and in-store promotions to find customers across the Google universe.

Alphabet reported first-quarter sales of $55.31 billion, an increase of 34% from a year earlier when advertising sales plunged as the coronavirus crippled the global economy. Profit more than doubled, with per-share earnings far exceeding analysts’ expectations.

The company posted $31.88 billion in sales from its signature products, including search, Gmail and maps, a 30% increase that reflected the way brands are spending to reach people online. YouTube pulled in $6 billion, increasing 49% from a year earlier.

Total profit reached almost $18 billion, soaring 162% from the previous year.

Google said it would repurchase an additional $50 billion in shares, fulfilling the wishes of investors who had been monitoring the company’s swelling cash reserves.

Alphabet shares gained more than 4% in after-hours trading.

“Google has the wind at its back now,” said Sean Stannard-Stockton, chief investment officer at Ensemble Capital, a Burlingame, Calif., firm with $1.5 billion in assets under management that counts Alphabet among its largest holdings. “It didn’t just glide through Covid. It’s really well positioned and is even stronger,” he said.

As the world’s digital ad leader, Google has been positioned to benefit from a broad wave of online ad growth sweeping across the economy. Smaller rival Snap Inc. last week reported a 66% increase in revenue on strong user growth and increased advertising, while Verizon Communications Inc. posted a 26% increase in ad sales.

The digital-spending surge has helped Google continue to deliver sales growth even as its share of the American search-advertising market slips. The company’s market share of search last year fell to 57% from 61% a year earlier, while rival Amazon.com Inc. increased its share to 19% from 13% over the same period, according to eMarketer, a research firm.

Regulators remain the largest obstacle to Google’s business success. Last year, the Justice Department and a separate coalition of states brought antitrust lawsuits alleging the company has struck secretive agreements to favor its search-engine and advertising businesses and thwart competitors.

The cases could force Google to spin off pieces of its business or cede its perch in search to rivals.

In addition, antitrust lawsuits have been filed by Epic Games Inc. over Google’s Play app store and the publisher Daily Mail over its digital advertising auctions.

Google has said it operates in a competitive market and people use its search service because they choose to, not because they are forced to. It says its Play store operates under policies that are fair to developers and its ad-tech business competes in a crowded marketplace with several alternatives for publishers.

The company continues to spend heavily to ensure Google remains the default search engine on iPhones and other devices. The toll fees, known as traffic-acquisition costs, rose 30% to $9.71 billion during the first quarter from a year earlier.

Google also has been spending to diversify beyond its core ad business with a cloud-computing service that challenges Amazon and Microsoft Corp. The company has been trumpeting a bevy of billion-dollar deals in recent months that lifted sales at the division 46% to $4.05 billion in the quarter.

The company has wooed new clients by packaging its offerings with benefits across its dominant advertising and search businesses. On Monday, it announced an eight-year, $1 billion-plus contract with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc. that it won in part by including YouTube and search elements.

The practice, known as bundling, has drawn criticism from lawmakers who say it undermines competition, but Thomas Kurian, Google’s Cloud chief executive, has said the company is simply responding to consumer needs.

On Monday, Apple Inc. released a software update that will give users the option to prevent apps from tracking their use on iPhones and other devices. The change is expected to pressure Google to implement similar privacy measures on its Android operating system, the world’s largest. Such a maneuver would upend Facebook Inc.’s business, which uses the data collected across mobile devices to target ads to users.

Because of its digital-advertising dominance, Google will have to walk a fine line in introducing privacy restrictions of its own on its mobile operating system. It has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and ad-tech competitors alike over a plan to stop selling ads on individuals’ browsing across multiple websites. Privacy advocates say its plan to group individuals in advertising cohorts doesn’t go far enough, while rivals consider it anticompetitive.

The speed bumps from privacy aren’t expected to slow Alphabet’s moneymaking machine. The company’s search engine has a lock on 92% of world-wide traffic, its Maps offerings have an 89% share of navigation and YouTube accounts for 73% of the online video world.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 27, 2021.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .