Archives for September 4, 2018

Amazon touches $1 trillion, on pace to overtake Apple

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) on Tuesday briefly joined Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to become the second $1 trillion publicly listed U.S. company after its stock price more than doubled in a year as it grew rapidly in retail and cloud computing.

Its shares traded as high as $2,050.50 before easing a little to end the session at $2,039.51, up 1.3 percent and just short of the milestone level of $2,050.2677.

If the online retailer’s shares keep up their recent pace, it would be a matter of when, not if, Amazon’s stock market valuation eclipses that of iPhone maker Apple, which reached $1 trillion on Aug. 2.

Apple took almost 38 years as a public company to achieve the trillion dollar milestone, while Amazon got there in 21 years. While Apple’s iPhone and other devices remain popular and its revenues are growing, it is not keeping up with Amazon’s blistering sales growth.

Amazon has impressed investors by diversifying into virtually every corner of the retail industry, altering how consumers buy products and putting big pressure on many brick-and-mortar stores.

“It says a lot about Amazon and its ever-increasing dominance of segments of the retailing world as well as the web services business,” said Peter Tuz, President Of Chase Investment Counsel In Charlottesville, Virginia. “They have a tiny share of the worldwide retail sales market so there’s a lot left to capture there.”

(Graphic: Amazon vs. Apple: reut.rs/2PwtdRg)

Amazon also provides video streaming services and bought upscale supermarket Whole Foods. And its cloud computing services for companies have become its main profit driver.

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“Amazon’s a little bit more dynamic than Apple because the iPhone has become more mature. Amazon’s cloud business is an extra growth driver that Apple doesn’t have,” said Daniel Morgan, portfolio manager at Synovus Trust in Atlanta who describes Amazon’s cloud services as its “crown jewel.”

In the second quarter the unit accounted for 55 percent of Amazon’s operating income and 20 percent of total revenue, according to Morgan.

Apple started trading in December 1980 but its stock did not truly start to take flight for another 25 years, spurred by the iPhone, the breakthrough device that left competitors in the dust.

Amazon – founded as an online book-retailer in Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’ garage in 1994 – started trading on May 15, 1997 at $1.50 on a split-adjusted basis.

By October 2009 it had risen to $100 and the stock hit $1,000 for the first time on May 30, 2017. It has held above that level since Oct. 27, 2017.

Just 10 months later, on Aug. 30, Amazon shares hit $2,000 for the first time, just $50 per share away from giving the company a $1 trillion market value.

(Graphic: Analyst Price Targets: reut.rs/2NHwHQq)

The stock is up 74.5 percent year to date. In comparison, Apple has risen about 35.0percent in 2018.

Analysts expect Apple’s revenue to jump 14.9 percent in its fiscal year ending in September, according to Thomson Reuters data, a hefty rise but still far short of Amazon’s expected revenue growth of 32 percent for 2018.

Reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Phil Berlowitz

Jon Kyl Will Take McCain's Senate Seat

On Tuesday, Arizona’s governor appointed former Republican senator Jon Kyl to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the late John McCain. The appointment could spell even more government scrutiny for tech giants like Facebook and Google—even though Kyl has only committed to serving until the start of the next Congressional session in January, though he may stay through 2020.

While McCain, who passed away on August 25, never focused his energies on the practices of technology platforms, Kyl has taken up the cause in his private endeavors, particularly as the head of an internal probe at Facebook into whether the platform is biased against conservatives, which was announced in May.

The results of that investigation have not been made public, and it is still ongoing. A Facebook spokesperson said that Kyl would leave the audit, but that it would continue with the team from law firm Covington and Burlington that he had led. Kyl did not immediately return a request for comment. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also held meetings with Facebook executives about the question of liberal bias as part of the inquiry.

Kyl’s appointment comes just one day before representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook are set to testify again before the Senate over concerns about privacy, political bias, and anti-competitive practices. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will also tomorrow appear separately before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to address similar concerns.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing is slated to focus on “foreign influence operations use of social media platforms,” but tech executives will likely also face questions about whether their platforms are biased against certain political viewpoints.

Over the next several months, Jon Kyl will arguably be the senator best-equipped to ask such questions, having ostensibly spent the summer examining Facebook’s treatment of conservative viewpoints, both internally and on its platform. In late August, The New York Times reported that an extremely small group of Facebook employees have internally argued that the company isn’t welcoming to conservative viewpoints.

In recent months, a number of conservative lawmakers, including President Trump, have also accused tech companies like Google and Facebook of suppressing right-wing content, and have questioned whether they should be regulated as a result.

In April, for example, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, half a dozen Republican lawmakers questioned whether the social network had suppressed content produced by conservative commentators Diamond and Silk. Just last week, President Trump accused Google of purposely favoring negative coverage about his administration in its news product.

The belief that tech companies intentionally censor certain political beliefs is also increasingly held by voters, especially Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

For years, conservatives on Capitol Hill have alleged that prominent tech companies are biased against their beliefs. They often cite a 2016 Gizmodo article as evidence, which reported that Facebook employees suppressed the reach of conservative outlets in its trending product. But while Silicon Valley is notoriously a hub for liberal tech workers, many lawmakers’ specific accusations have largely been unfounded. Still, their complaints highlight the amount of power over Americans’ speech and access to information that a handful of California companies have consolidated.

Kyl appears well-poised to ramp up the questioning over whether Google and Facebook can keep that power while avoiding more government oversight. Aside from his experience with Facebook, the senator also has a history of pushing for the regulation of some internet activities. In the early aughts, he was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the criminalization of some categories of online gambling and he ultimately helped to pass the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Act.

As a lobbyist at Covington and Burlington, where Kyl has worked since declining to seek reelection in 2013, he has represented clients like Walmart, Georgetown University, and the conservative political organization Judicial Crisis Network. His clients have also included some technology companies, like San Diego-based Qualcomm.

Kyl has also busied himself with more than just auditing Facebook this summer. In a sign of his deep commitment to conservative interests, Kyl has also been guiding Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, through his Senate confirmation hearings.

As Kyl’s fellow senators mull over proposed legislation like a national privacy law, that commitment may also increasingly mean towing the Republican line on regulating big tech. No one is poised better to lead the effort than Kyl.

UPDATED: 9/4/2018, 4:52 PM EST: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook


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