Seeing what you want to see in the stock price

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

This article is making the rounds on Mastodon, where generative AI hate runs strong, and I get it, it’s everything you want to hear in a headline if you think ChatGPT is the most evil thing ever created on computers. It kicks off with the headline, “AI companies lose $190 billion in market cap after Alphabet and Microsoft report,” which sounds pretty dire.

We get a little clarity in the opening line:

AI-related companies lost $190 billion in stock market value late on Tuesday after Microsoft, Alphabet and Advanced Micro Devices, delivered quarterly results that failed to impress investors who had sent their stocks soaring.

So actually this is based on 3 companies’ stock price changes over one day. For what it’s worth, Apple’s market cap dropped about $60 billion as well yesterday, and it seems to be just a part of a day the market was a bit down, but that doesn’t play into the narrative, so it’s not worth mentioning here.

But let’s get back to the piece. Why are these stocks down? Surely because their generative AI features are sinking the companies, right?

Alphabet dropped 5.6% after the Google-parent's December-quarter ad revenue missed expectations.

Click through the link to see the specifics, but ad revenue was up, it just wasn’t up as much as Wall Street expected.

Microsoft beat analyst estimates for quarterly revenue as new AI features helped attract customers to its cloud and Windows services. However, its stock fell 0.7% in extended trade after briefly hitting an intra-day record high earlier on Tuesday.

Microsoft beat expectations and even hit a new high before dropping down a little. So all good news financially, but the stock market was down that day and it hit them too.

Chipmaker Advanced Micro tumbled 6% after its forecast for first-quarter revenue missed estimates, even as it projected strong sales for its AI processors.

Ooh, finally something actually down! Let’s click that link to see how AI is crashing for them!

AMD's near doubling of its AI processor projections to $3.5 billion was not enough to meet Wall Street's lofty projections for the company's AI fortunes, or assuage the pain of a significant drop in its programmable chip and videogame businesses.

Oh, so their AI-centric business is doubling and other parts of their business are hurting them. Huh…

Listen, I’m not a Marc Andreessen-style hype beast, but I do think there is a healthy amount of confirmation bias in reporting around generative AI on both sides. I find myself in this awkward middle ground where I think that generative AI will have a very real place in the future of technology and there are already many useful ways that it fits into my life today. That said, I do find it a bit optimistic to think that these tools are the cornerstone of all tech going forward. I’m not prepared to make any more definitive statements on the future success or failure of this tech, but I do know that one day’s stock market performance isn’t what I’ll ever use to “confirm” it’s all crashing down.