Inside Investing | Jan 14, 2019 02:10AM ET
As we welcome 2019, we look back at the last quarter of 2018 to see which stocks investors searched for the most. Unlike the Q2 and Q3 reports, the FAANG stocks got a lot more attention in Q4, dominating 4 of the top-5 spots. Other than one newcomer, the list is comprised of stocks we’ve seen in previous quarters. However, when comprising this list we saw that the theme of the top-20 this time is loss. Not a single stock on the list had a positive fourth quarter, with Microsoft having the least-bad results with ‘only’ -11% drop in share value.
The most obvious trends in Q4 are increased focus on established U.S. tech companies, and reduced interest in Chinese-based stocks, which may indicate that investors have less confidence in the stability of the U.S. market.
For the first time in 2018, we see Ford Motors joining the list, with AT&T, Microsoft, Boeing, and Alphabet returning after being absent in Q3. Companies that reached the top-20 in Q3 but didn’t make it this time, were NIO (NYSE:NIO), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Amarin Corp (NASDAQ:AMRN), Cronos (NASDAQ:CRON) and India Globalization Capital (OTC:IGCC).
Compared to the previous 3, Q4 took a bearish turn, with the markets feeling the effects of geopolitical events (mainly the U.S.-China trade war and the Federal Reserve rate hikes), leaving investors with one of the worst Q4’s in recent history.
The last quarter of 2018 was particularly tough on some stocks, with Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares losing more than 30% of their worth, which translates to a whopping $380.45 billion decline in the company’s market cap. This can explain why it was the #1-most-searched stock of the quarter. The loss is attributed, in part, to declining sales of Apple mobile products during the holiday season, as well as the overall effects of the U.S-China trade war. Add to this Apple’s profit warning just 3 days after the end of Q4, one can only speculate what’ll happen to the Cupertino giant in 2019...
At #2, we have Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), which alongside Apple, got into the Trillion dollar valuation for a short period of time. Between October 1st and December 31st, the stock plummeted from $2,004.36 to $1,501.97 losing just over 25% it’s worth. Interestingly, at the time of this writing, it’s still the most valued company in the world.
The third most-searched stock was Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), a stock that saw a lot of ups and downs in 2018, much of it thanks to its colorful CEO, Elon Musk. The quarter started off with the stock climbing 17.35% on October 1st after Tesla settled on fraud allegations with the SEC. The rest of the quarter wasn’t calm, though. By October 8th the stock dropped more than 19%, climbed back 43% by mid-November, hit an all-time high on December 13th and then dropped again by the end of December. Q4 was altogether very volatile for Tesla, making its #3 place on this list understandable.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)(#4), is the third FAANG stock on the list. Facebook stock has been steadily declining since taking a hit on July 26th. What started with unfavorable revenue reports in Q2, was followed by several controversies, focusing mainly on Facebook’s possible abuse of its users’ privacy - from having more than 30 million accounts’ info stolen, giving users data access to other companies, to blocking accounts suspected of interfering with U.S. midterm elections, and more.
Next on the list is Netflix Inc (NASDAQ:NFLX)- yet another stock that has been on the decline since October 1st, its shares losing over 28% of their value by the end of the year. Possible reasons are that several companies (mainly Disney) announced they’ll be offering their own streaming services that will compete directly with Netflix, as well as Netflix’s growing debt as a result of producing its own original content. Will the video streaming giant bounce back in 2019?
In places #6 and #7 we find NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NASDAQ:AMD) (AMD), each suffered losses of 52% and 40% respectively. The continued decline in cryptocurrency mining resulted in a significantly reduced demand for their graphics cards, which are used for their fast calculation capabilities in cryptocurrency mining. This resulted in considerably diminished earnings compared to earlier estimates. In addition, AMD’s major competitor in the computer processor market, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), released a new generation of processors that are stronger than what AMD had to offer, contributing to its stock’s decline.
Coming in at #8 is the automaker General Motors Company (NYSE:GM). GM got into a spat with U.S. president Trump when they announced they would close 3 factories in the States and dismiss more than 14,000 employees. Trump has threatened to pull subsidies from GM, shaking investor confidence in the company.
Closing off the FAANG list is Alphabet* (Google) - Alphabet’s stock’s (both Alphabet Inc Class C (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Alphabet Inc Class A (NASDAQ:GOOGL)) value dropped by over 13% during Q4, in part due to lackluster sales numbers, allegations of sexual misconduct and poor treatment of temp workers, combined with allegations of political meddling by changing search results.
Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (NYSE:BABA), the Chinese mega-retailer closes off the top-10 most-searched. Alibaba had a difficult quarter, losing more than 16% of its shares’ worth. Its founder, Jack Ma, announced he’s leaving the company, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) warned that China is violating a cybersecurity agreement with the U.S., and the ongoing trade war all contributed to the drop in the company’s value. One can only speculate what’s in store for this stock in 2019...
(#11) Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), like many other tech stocks, was also affected negatively, albeit much less than the rest of its counterparts, its shares’ value dropping declining by “only” 11%. At one point during the quarter, Microsoft overtook Apple and became the highest-valued company in the world, and is the second highest at the time of this writing.
3 major marijuana stocks got a lot of attention in Q4, coming in at places #12,#13, and #14. Marijuana stocks remain volatile, with Tilray Inc (NASDAQ:TLRY) losing more than 50% of its value, Aurora Cannabis Inc (TO:ACB) losing 48%, and Canopy Growth Corp (TO:WEED) losing nearly 45% of its worth. In previous quarters, these “420 stocks” looked like unicorns, making tremendous gains in a short period of time, so it is possible that this is an overdue correction.
Yet another tech stock that was hit hard was Square Inc (NYSE:SQ)(#15), its shares going down 43.45%. It’s still interesting to see that despite the hit, the company’s stock still rose by over 61% in 2018. In contrast, Micron Technology Inc (NASDAQ:MU) (#16) year was not a great one, despite a promising Q2, the company ended 2018 with a valuation lower by 17.32% than how it started. The microchips-as-commodity manufacturer reported disappointing guidance and weakening demands, which didn’t help boost investor confidence.
Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) climbed up from #20 in Q3, to #17 in Q4, as it continued a downward trend that began at the end of Q3, and in Q4, the stock lost over 16%. Like most other U.S. banks, the losses are attributed, in part, to concerns of waning economic activity and falling inflation expectations. The fourth quarter of 2018 wasn’t particularly kind to the AT&T Inc (NYSE:T) stock (#18) either, ending with a 15% decline in value. Most analysts attribute this to the communications giant bad earnings report for Q3.
Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) stock slipped 13.28% by the end of December. It started with one of the company’s 737 jets crashing in Indonesia, and the subsequent investigation showing that a bug in the software of the 737 Max can result in sudden crashes, prompting investors’ fears that the company may end up liable for the deadly Indonesia crash.
The final company, coming in at #20 is Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) making its first debut on the list this year. The manufacturers of the world’s original production car, lost 17.3% during Q4. Altogether, Ford lost 38.75% of its value in 2018. Some reasons are a reported 34% sales drop in China, and GM’s announcement of closing factories throughout the U.S. caused investors to fear that Ford will follow suit.
To gather this information, we checked the search volume from the U.S. for each stock for both the website and the mobile app, choosing the 20-most-searched stocks. This list is not a recommendation for investment. You must always do your due diligence.
*For the Alphabet stock, we combined class A and class C results.
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