China races to rival the U.S. with its own GPS system — but one analyst says it won’t overtake the U.S. yet
China is set to become a major player in the “highly lucrative” satellite navigation market, as it seeks to compete with the U.S. government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS), an analyst said Monday.
But China’s homegrown Beidou system is not likely to overtake the GPS system for now, said Craig Singleton, adjunct fellow at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“China has marked a major step in its race to increase market share in this highly lucrative sector,” Singleton told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
“The completion of the system also reaffirms China’s status as a world power. It represents a major declaration about its technical independence from the West, which carries wide-ranging geopolitical implications,” said Singleton.
More than 120 countries — including Pakistan and Thailand — are using China’s Beidou system for purposes such as monitoring traffic at ports or guiding rescue operations, the analyst said.
And Beijing is counting on its massive Belt and Road Initiative to “convince” more countries to use Beidou, he added.
The Beidou system was completed in June last year. Chinese state media Xinhua said last week that the value of Beidou-related industries will exceed 1 trillion yuan ($157.1 billion) by 2025.
Singleton said Beidou’s completion has rekindled concerns among some in the West about the privacy and security of Chinese technology. He explained that some people fear Beijing could use its technology to track individuals, such as dissidents or democracy activists.
Such concerns have come as U.S.-China competition heats up in the technology space. The U.S. under former President Donald Trump introduced export controls on several Chinese tech companies, including telecommunications equipment maker Huawei and top chipmaker SMIC, or Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.
President Joe Biden has kept many Trump-era restrictions on Chinese companies. Biden is seeking to boost investments in U.S. research and development so that his country can build tech capabilities to compete with China.
For now, China’s Beidou system doesn’t appear to threaten the dominance of GPS, said Singleton.
“At this point, it doesn’t look as if Beidou is going to overcome GPS, but it’s certainly possible that we will see a bifurcated system, bifurcated world between GPS and Beidou in the future,” the analyst said.
— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.
Tech stocks just finished a five-week rally — the longest stretch since market peak in November 2021
Tech stocks on display at the Nasdaq.
Peter Kramer | CNBC
The Nasdaq just wrapped up its fifth straight week of gains, jumping 3.3% over the last five days. It’s the longest weekly winning streak for the tech-laden index since a stretch that ended in November 2021. Coming off its worst year since 2008, the Nasdaq is up 15% to start 2023.
The last time tech stocks enjoyed a rally this long, investors were gearing up for electric carmaker Rivian’s blockbuster IPO, the U.S. economy was closing out its strongest year for growth since 1984, and the Nasdaq was trading at a record.
This time around, there’s far less champagne popping. Cost cuts have replaced growth on Wall Street’s checklist, and tech executives are being celebrated for efficiency over innovation. The IPO market is dead. Layoffs are abundant.
Earnings reports were the story of the week, with results landing from many of the world’s most valuable tech companies. But the numbers, for the most part, weren’t good.
Apple missed estimates for the first time since 2016, Facebook parent Meta recorded a third straight quarter of declining revenue, Google‘s core advertising business shrank, and Amazon closed out its weakest year for growth in its 25-year history as a public company.
While investors had mixed reactions to the individual reports, all four stocks closed the week with solid gains, as did Microsoft, which reported earnings the prior week and issued lackluster guidance in projecting revenue growth this quarter of only about 3%.
Meta was the top performer among the group this week, with the stock soaring 23%, its third-best week ever. In its earnings report Wednesday, revenue came in slightly above estimates, even with sales down year over year, and the first-quarter forecast was roughly in line with expectations.
The key to the rally was CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pronouncement in the earnings statement that 2023 would be the “Year of Efficiency” and his promise that “we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization.”
“That was really the game-changer,” Stephanie Link, chief investment strategist at Hightower Advisors, said in an interview Friday with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“The quarter itself was OK, but it was the cost-cutting that they finally got religion on, and that’s why I think Meta really took off,” she said.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that the times are changing. From the year of its IPO in 2012 through 2021, the company grew between 22% and 58% a year. But in 2022 revenue fell 1%, and analysts expect growth of only 5% in 2023, according to Refinitiv.
On the earnings call, Zuckerberg said he doesn’t expect declines to continue, “but I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.” Meta announced in November the elimination of 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce.
Link said the reason Meta’s stock got such a big bounce after earnings was because “expectations were so low and the valuation was so compelling.” The stock lost almost two-thirds of its value last year, far more than its mega-cap peers.
Apple, which slid 27% last year, gained 6.2% this week despite reporting its steepest drop in revenue in seven years. CEO Tim Cook said results were hurt by a strong dollar, production issues in China affecting the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, and the overall macroeconomic environment.
“Apple is navigating what is, of course, a very difficult environment quite well overall,” Dan Flax, an analyst at Neuberger Berman, told “Squawk Box” on Friday. “As we move through the coming months and quarters, we’ll see a return to growth and the market will begin to discount that. We continue to like the name even in the face of these macro challenges.”
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who succeeded Jeff Bezos in mid-2021, took the unusual step of joining the earnings call with analysts Thursday after his company issued a weaker-than-expected forecast for the first quarter. In January, Amazon began layoffs, which are expected to result in the loss of more than 18,000 jobs.
“Given this last quarter was the end of my first full year in this role and given some of the unusual parts in the economy and our business, I thought this might be a good one to join,” Jassy said on the call.
Managing expenses has become a big theme for Amazon, which expanded rapidly during the pandemic and subsequently admitted that it hired too many people during that period.
“We’re working really hard to streamline our costs,” Jassy said.
Alphabet is also in downsizing mode. The company announced last month that it’s slashing 12,000 jobs. Its revenue miss for the fourth quarter included disappointing sales at YouTube from a pullback in ad spending and weakness in the cloud division as businesses tighten their belts.
Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s finance chief, told CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa that the company is meaningfully slowing the pace of hiring in an effort to deliver long-term profitable growth.
Alphabet shares ended the week up 5.4% even after giving up some of their gains during Friday’s sell-off. The stock is now up 19% for the year.
Ruth Porat, Alphabet CFO, at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland on May 23rd, 2022.
Adam Galica | CNBC
Should the Nasdaq continue its upward trend and notch a sixth week of gains, it would match the longest rally since a stretch that ended in January 2020, just before the Covid pandemic hit the U.S.
Another area in tech that flourished this week was the semiconductor space. Similar to the consumer tech companies, there wasn’t much by way of growth to excite Wall Street.
AMD on Tuesday beat on sales and profit but guided analysts to a 10% year-over-year decline in revenue for the current quarter. Intel, AMD’s primary competitor, reported a disastrous quarter last week and projected a 40% decline in sales in the March quarter.
The semiconductor industry is dealing with a glut of extra parts at PC and server makers and falling prices for components such as memory and central processors. But after a miserable year in 2022, the stocks are rebounding on signs that an easing of Federal Reserve rate increases and lightening inflation numbers will give the companies a boost later this year.
Jury finds Musk, Tesla not liable in securities fraud trial following ‘funding secured’ tweets
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his security detail depart the company’s local office in Washington, January 27, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO was sued by Tesla shareholders over a series of tweets he wrote in August 2018 saying he had “funding secured” to take the automaker private for $420 per share, and that “investor support” for such a deal was “confirmed.”
Trading in Tesla was halted after his tweets, and its share price remained volatile for weeks.
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before reading their verdict. “We are disappointed with the verdict and considering next steps,” said Nicholas Porritt, partner at Levi & Korsinsky, the firm representing the shareholders in the class action, in an email to CNBC.
“I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
Musk’s lead counsel, Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, arguing before the jury earlier Friday, said the matter had to be assessed in context, noting the Tesla CEO was only considering taking the company private. He said fraud cannot be built on the back of a consideration.
Spiro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shareholders in the certified class-action lawsuit included a mix of stock and options buyers who alleged that Musk’s tweets were reckless and false, and that relying on his statements to make decisions about when to buy or sell cost them significant amounts of money.
Musk later claimed that he had a verbal commitment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and that he thought funding would come through at his proposed price based on a handshake. However, the deal never materialized.
During the course of this trial, Musk also said he would have sold shares of SpaceX to finance a going-private deal for Tesla, as well as taking funds from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
Apple’s long-term positives outweigh rare earnings miss, Morgan Stanley says
Apple CEO Tim Cook holds a new iPhone 14 Pro during an Apple special event on September 07, 2022 in Cupertino, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
“Taking a step back, it’s rare to see Apple miss and guide down in a quarter, but we believe the long-term positives from tonight’s report outweigh the short-term negatives,” Morgan Stanley’s Erik Woodring wrote. Apple’s Thursday night earnings report cited a strong dollar, continued production issues in China, and the broader macroeconomic environment as three reasons for Apple’s first year-over-year sales decline since 2019.
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“On the third factor, I would say was just the challenging macroeconomic environment, and you’re hearing that from, I would think, everybody,” CEO Tim Cook told CNBC’s Steve Kovach.
But Morgan Stanley assesses those headwinds as transitory, noting both accelerated growth in iPhone installed base and a continued upward margin trajectory as longer-term upside which will ensure “the Apple flywheel keeps spinning.”
Morgan Stanley reiterated its top pick rating for Apple. The company has managed to navigate a broader tech downturn with considerable success and is one of the few tech companies that has staved off layoffs and maintained a level of operational expense discipline.
It’s that same discipline that helps Morgan Stanley analysts maintain a bullish outlook on Apple, which guided to a March 2023 gross margin ranging from 43.5 to 44.5%, according to the note.
“We believe Apple’s ability to post the highest gross margin in a decade despite seeing revenue decline Y/Y is impressive, and moving forward, we expect gross margins to improve as mix, FX, commodities, and logistics all work in Apple’s favor through the rest of 2023 and into FY24,” Morgan Stanley’s note said.
Apple’s user spend levels are also keeping Morgan Stanley bullish, proof that “the underlying drivers of Apple’s model remain robust.”
Investors have apparently embraced Morgan Stanley’s appraisal of Apple’s durability as a long-term investment. Apple shares were up around 1% at the open Friday, despite the sales miss, recouping losses from a 4% drop Thursday night. The company also reported misses on the top and bottom lines, beating analyst expectations only in iPad and services revenue.
— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.
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