Trading Desk: The Age Of AI

Artificial intelligence has become a significant focus within the market, with a full 199 of the S&P 500 management teams mentioning AI during their earnings conference calls for the first quarter.  Obviously, Meta Platforms (META), NVIDIA (NVDA) and Microsoft (MSFT) were among the companies talking most frequently about “AI” but we saw a few energy, consumer and even real estate companies pick up the theme.

At this stage, META is all about AI, with the executives there dropping the term almost 100 times during their call. If you accept NVDA as a pure AI-forward enterprise, the fact that Zuckerberg and company are talking even more about their artificial intelligence efforts reveals a certain amount of anxiety or even hype.

Admittedly, it’s been working for META. The stock is up 38% YTD, running rings around the market as a whole.

But there needs to be some substance around the hype. Tesla (TSLA) talked a lot about how it is pivoting from being “just” a company that makes world-class cars into becoming the artificial intelligence that drives the new transportation system.

Sure. But what does that mean for the shareholders who bought the car company? Is the AI side worth more than the cars? Should it be spun out and the car company abandoned?

I doubt Elon is thinking in those terms. Wall Street doubts it too. And that’s a real problem for a company that was already riding pretty high on hope if not hype. Those of us who had to do some mathematical acrobatics to figure out why the car company was valued so richly now need to throw that away in order to figure out Musk’s “AI” narrative.

It’s too big a stretch. And it reminds me of the companies that remade themselves as “blockchain” innovators a few years ago. Remember that? Suddenly every ancient and obsolete enterprise with a little imagination was rolling out a crypto token designed to track some commodity or another.

Where are they now? Lost in the sands of hype. For TSLA shareholders, I hope Elon comes up with something else.