June 17, 2024
Nvidia and Best Buy suggested a pandemic-era tech bottleneck is ending. Now we see for sure

Nvidia and Best Buy suggested a pandemic-era tech bottleneck is ending. Now we see for sure

Best Buy Co. BBY, +4.28% Chief Executive Corie Barry said last week she expected the downtrend in tech-product demand to bottom out soon, with a rebound in the second half of the year. Executives for chip maker Nvidia Corp. NVDA, +2.54% said their logjam of products that could not find buyers after a pandemic surge had finally been depleted.

Those are excellent data points for tech’s flagging PC market, which has experienced record declines since a spike in purchases early in the COVID-19 pandemic This week, the public will get a clearer sense of where tech consumers, and the chips that power the laptops and desktops that have sold for a discount, are headed from PC makers HP Inc. HPQ, +1.29%, which releases quarterly earnings on Tuesday, and Dell Technologies Inc. DELL, +0.89%, which reports on Thursday.

Those companies will report amid the tech industry’s mass move toward artificial intelligence — or at least a move toward talking about it a lot — to retain investor enthusiasm after a drop in digital demand following the pandemic led to waves of layoffs. FactSet Senior Earnings Analyst John Butters, in a report on Friday, said that between March 15 and May 25, 110 S&P 500 SPX, +1.30% companies mentioned the term “AI” during their earnings calls — the highest since at least 2010.

While HP and Dell will likely play up their ambitions in AI as well, the more important question for them is if they’ve managed to unclog their inventories. Based on the commentary from others involved in the PC supply chain, they should be improving — Barry, at Best Buy BBY, +4.28%, said that the fallout from that boom-and-bust cycle was soon to be in the rearview.

“Based on what we see right now, we continue to believe that calendar 2023 will be the bottom for the decline in tech demand,” Barry said.

“I think as we look ahead, we start to feel like you see the turn in the business as you head out the back half of this year and into next year,” she added.

But for now, JPMorgan analysts last week noted only “tepid improvement” in Dell’s PC demand. And they noted that more cautious spending on tech infrastructure in IT departments would weigh on the segment on the company focused on cloud and storage operations.

There will also be plenty of cloud-software names, after concerns about growth slowing have been countered by strong results and forecasts so far this season. Results from big cloud-services names like Salesforce Inc. CRM, +2.63%, Box Inc., BOX, +1.84% VMware Inc., VMW, +4.21% Veeva Systems Inc. VEEV, +1.61% and Zscaler Inc. ZS, +3.10% round out the week.

For Salesforce, the broader backdrop is not exactly “roses and rainbows,” Wedbush analysts said in a research note on Thursday. But they noted “a number of larger more transformational suite-wide deals inked during the quarter” at the workplace software company, which owns communication platform Slack and helps different workplace departments more easily track customer data.

This week in earnings

Nine S&P 500 companies are set to report quarterly results in the week ahead, according to FactSet. One of those — Salesforce — is a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.00%.

Among those set to report are data-storage provider Pure Storage Inc. PSTG, +6.45% and AI software provider C3.ai Inc. AI, +15.95%. Results are also due from outdoor and workwear maker Duluth Holdings Inc. DLTH, +0.54% and PVH Corp. PVH, +2.37% — the company behind clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein — as retailers stay cautious about stocking their shelves with more clothing, following a year of subdued demand.

The call to put on your calendar

Macy’s results, department-store demand: Macy’s M, +2.14% reports its first-quarter results on Thursday, as higher prices for basics stretch consumers and leave less room to buy clothing and home goods. However, shares of other clothing retailers — like Gap Inc. GPS, +12.40% and Urban Outfitters Inc. URBN, +3.78% — recently rallied, after investors found things to like in the financials. But shares of beauty-products chain Ulta Beauty Inc. ULTA, -13.37% took a hit following their own results, and executives warned that rivals were starting cut prices on their own products, after the economy’s reopening from the pandemic jolted demand and pushed prices higher.

The number to watch

Dollar General sales, and inflation’s low-income impact: Higher prices over the past two years have had a bigger impact on low-income consumers. More low-income Americans are skipping meals, and dealing with the end of pandemic-era government assistance. Results from dollar-store chain Dollar General Corp. DG, +0.73%, set to be published on Thursday, will serve as a proxy for the impact, as well as the extent to which wealthier customers are turning toward dollar stores for cheaper supplies. Big-box discount chain Walmart Inc. WMT, +0.18% last week noted that higher-income shoppers were stopping by more, but added that the current stretch of inflation, entering its third year, had left families struggling.

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