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Interesting FT article yesterday highlighting the divide within the technology sector over a call for US to adopt EU GDPR data privacy standards, a development prompted by a desire to have US federal standards in place so as to supercede a data privacy law already approved by California. While mostly business-facing companies (i.e. AAPL, CSCO, IBM, MSFT) favor a US GDPR, the opposition stems from consumer-facing companies (i.e. FB, GOOGL, TWTR) that rely on data-monetization business models that are presently being fined under the EU GPDR (e.g. GOOGL $57mm fine by French data regulator CNIL). Separately, investors should note that its recently announced plans to merge its messaging platforms may cause FB to violate EU GDPR. Note that EU GDPR penalties call for violators to be fined the greater of Euro20mm or 4% of global sales, making GPDR a set of regulations with teeth.
GOOGL 4Q18 Results Cuts Chance Of Margin Expansion As Online Ad Competition Grows
GOOGL 4Q18 results (Revs $39.3bn, Street $39.1bn; EPS $12.77, Street $10.86) largely surpassed consensus expectations, but masked underlying cost trends that should give investors pause when considering the prospects for profit margin improvement over the the course of 2019 as full-year 2018 expense growth at +30% year/year well outstripped the full-year 2018 revenue growth of +23% year/year. Headcount, an important expense driver, increased +23% year/year to 98,771. Within its online advertising franchise where the company still holds a 31% share of global digital advertising, GOOGL faces negative trends as the shift to mobile prompts a fall in realized revenue per click which dropped -29% in 4Q18 as total ad clicks grew +66%. As GOOGL is not presently mitigating profit margin pressure by optimizing its operating costs, investors are likely to be only moderately positive on its shares.
Fed Now Offers Markets The “Powell Put” To Limit Downside Risk, Improves 2019 Equity Market Prospects
With last week’s Fed announcement that further interest rate increases are not now in the offing over the course of 2019, it appears the Fed is more focused on the impact of interest rates on financial market conditions than on actual business investment spending. With that Fed Chair Powell has demonstrated that the “Fed Put” remains alive and well during his tenure. While it may not be an “all clear” for investors as major issues still hang over the market (e.g. US/PRC trade negotiations, Brexit, possible 2nd US Government shutdown), nevertheless the path towards further market appreciation is for now not blocked by the Fed tightening interest rate policy. Not back to the races, but equity prospects are not as negative as earlier.