Tech Stocks Roundup: Facebook Slammed for Fake Celebrity Crypto Ads – TheStreet

Facebook finds itself at the center of another controversy.

Australia’s consumer watchdog agency (ACCC) has decided to sue Meta  (MVRS) – Get Meta Report, formerly Facebook, for having allegedly “aided and abetted celebrity scam ads on Facebook that have cost some Australians hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Meta “engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing scam advertisements featuring prominent Australian public figures,” the regulator argued in a news release.

The ACCC alleges that this conduct was in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) or the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act (ASIC Act).

It is also alleged that Meta aided and abetted or was knowingly concerned in false or misleading conduct and representations by the advertisers

“The ads, which promoted investment in cryptocurrency or money-making schemes, were likely to mislead Facebook users into believing the advertised schemes were associated with well-known people featured in the ads, such as businessman Dick Smith, TV presenter David Koch and former NSW Premier Mike Baird,” ACCC said. 

According to the regulator, the ads contained links, which took Facebook users to a fake media article that included quotes attributed to the public figure featured in the ad endorsing a cryptocurrency or money-making scheme.

It is alleged that Meta was aware that the celebrity endorsement cryptocurrency scam ads were being displayed on Facebook but did not take sufficient steps to address the issue. The ads were still being displayed on Facebook even after public figures around the world had complained that their names and images had been used in similar ads without their consent. 

The regulator is seeking penalties, costs, and other orders. Contacted by TheStreet, Meta did not respond. But according to statements made to other news outlets, Meta said it will defend the proceedings.

What Cathie Wood Sees in the Future for Technology, Innovation

Investors everywhere want to know what investment star Cathie Wood, chief executive of Ark Investment Management, thinks about where the markets are heading.

Wood’s success with her investments over time, despite a recent decline in her Ark Innovation ETF  (ARKK) – Get ARK Innovation ETF Report, has investors watching her every move and listening to her comments. People want to know what the next move will be.

Wood on Friday took time out from her busy investing schedule to chat with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on a podcast about her predictions for innovation and technology through 2030. She said society has not seen the amount of change that’s about to occur in history. The last time such significant changes occurred was in the early 20th century with the introduction of the telephone, electricity, and the automobile.

Five innovation platforms that are currently evolving and converging at the same time, Wood said, are artificial intelligence, robotics, energy storage, DNA sequencing, and blockchain technology. “All of them are on exponential growth trajectories and are converging with each other,” Wood told Hayes.

Over the next 10 years, Wood said she believes the market cap associated with the five platforms that include 14 transformative technologies will scale at a 30% compounded annual rate of return. The five platforms are expected to have increased equity market returns from a total of $13.7 trillion in 2020 to a projected $202.6 trillion in 2030.

Ark Management’s Big Ideas 2022 report identified 14 transformative technologies that it said are approaching tipping points as costs drop and unleash demand across sectors and geographies, spawning more innovation.

Those 14 technologies include mobile connected devices, gene editing, digital wallets, blockchain, cloud computing, gene sequencing, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, living therapies, battery technology, reusable rockets, robotics, autonomous mobility and 3D printing.

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Here’s a breakdown list of more technology stocks to watch right now based on their performance over the past week:

Facebook

Meta posted a weaker-than-expected fourth quarter with the company forecasting that spending will close in on $100 billion this year while noting slower user growth rates and a pullback on advertising budgets. Meta has lost over $500 since the name change from Facebook, and Zuckerberg’s financial hit was big enough to get him kicked off of the top 10 list of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. But, Zuckerberg isn’t slowing down, as evidenced by his announcement at the SXSW conference, that NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, will be coming to Instagram, Meta’s picture and video sharing app.

“We’re working on bringing NFTs to Instagram in the near term,” Zuckerberg said, according to Fast Company. “I’m not ready to kind of announce exactly what that’s going to be today. But, over the next several months, the ability to bring some of your NFTs in, hopefully over time [you’ll] be able to mint things within that environment.”

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) as a Buy with a rating score of B+.

Apple

Chances are if you’re an Apple  (AAPL) – Get Apple Inc. Report loyalist then, you’ve potentially already placed preorders for Apple’s latest low-cost budget iPhone SE 3 or the new 5th generation iPad Air released during the tech giant’s first product event for 2022 held earlier this month. While delivery times for Apple’s slate of new products are already running into the end of March, Foxconn Technology Group has returned to “some production” after Covid related work stoppages. Foxconn (formerly known as Hon Hai Precision Industry) has been able to restart some operations and production at its Shenzhen campus in a regulated manner. The company had said earlier that it was trying to minimize damage by deploying backup plants to keep up with production targets.

Apple is used to dealing with skeptics. Each time the tech giant has said it would launch a new product in an already mature and saturated market, its announcements have been met with skepticism. This was the case with the iPhone and the iPad, and even more recently when it introduced the Apple Watch. But, Apple recently launched the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips alongside its new MacBook Pro laptops. Now, the company is taking things to a whole new level with the new M1 Ultra chip, presented on March 8 during the company’s first big event of 2022.

Apple also said that the M1 Ultra can deliver 90% better multi-threaded performance than the latest PC desktop processor, with GPU performance also being faster while using 100W less power. So, Apple no longer has to pay Intel  (INTC) – Get Intel Corporation Report for its processors, which is a good thing for consumers. Macs with Apple Silicon M1 processors are falling in price. Pooling production lines and making its own components may enable Apple to recoup more than the price drop cuts into revenue. A few minutes after the March 8 event, Apple finally stopped selling the 27-Inch Mac from its online store. Two Macs still work with Intel chips, the Mac Pro and Intel Mac Mini. It’s safe to say that their days are numbered.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Apple as a Buy with a rating score of A.

Spotify

Visions of a new and freer internet, driven by blockchain transactions that aren’t dominated by just a few organizations, are coalescing around the word “Web3.” While the debate rages, the concept has already begun to change the fortunes of the music industry expanding revenue options to help artists make more money and not end up being cheated by record labels and streaming platforms. “The revenue [artists] they’re earning from selling their songs and music as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, is significantly larger,” Bloomberg reported compared to what they make on music streaming services like Spotify  (SPOT) – Get Spotify Technology SA Report or Apple Music.

How much more? Sometimes to the tune of $60,000 from selling five singles and a music video as compared to $300 a month from streaming with over 4 million streams, according to the report. It’s not surprising that Spotify also wants to get into this space. The online music service is looking for talent that has expertise in Web3 for two positions. A week ago, Spotify posted two positions both of which needed Web3 prowess as part of hiring criteria. The first is for a Senior Manager, Innovation and Market Intelligence on LinkedIn to join Spotify’s team of “futurists providing leadership and strategic oversight in the areas of long-term strategy, industry and competitive analysis, business intelligence.”

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Spotify as a Buy with a rating score of B-.

Uber/Lyft/Instacart

Every time you think you’re over the price of gas, more disappointment is sure to follow — as gas prices spike, companies that provide transportation and deliver food are implementing fuel surcharges that, while temporary, risk becoming permanent. The price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. was, according to AAA data, $4.27 on Friday. While down slightly from this week’s highs, it is still roughly 11% higher than last week and over 30% higher than last year. To offset the additional costs to drivers, many delivery and transportation companies have been adding fuel surcharges.

Instacart is the latest company to bite the bullet and add a 40-cent fuel surcharge. The grocery delivery platform announced on Friday that it would be adding the surcharge to “help offset the increased cost of gas over the next month.” One of the first major companies to introduce such a surcharge, Uber  (UBER) – Get Uber Technologies, Inc. Report announced that it would be adding an additional 45 or 55 cents to each ride and an extra 35 to 45 cents to each Uber Eats order. And swift to follow Uber, Lyft  (LYFT) – Get Lyft, Inc. Class A Report introduced its own $0.55 fuel surcharge to all trips for the next 60 days.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Uber Technologies as a Sell with a rating score of D.

Amazon

Tech stocks have plenty of room to continue higher and adding exposure to the strongest names in the sector like Amazon  (AMZN) – Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report, Nvidia  (NVDA) – Get NVIDIA Corporation Report, and Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc Report might end up being a smart call for long-term buyers. These companies all displayed relative strength and heavy accumulation this past week during the rally, which suggests that institutional investors are increasing their exposure in riskier areas of the market for the first time in months.

“For now, it might make the most sense to take a cautiously optimistic approach towards increasing tech exposure until the market proves that this new uptrend is for real,” writes TheStreet’s Sean Sechler. “After all, if this move is indeed the start of a new bull run, the rally in tech stocks is likely just getting started.” With many of the former leaders in the sector facing heavy selling pressure to start the year and the tech-heavy NASDAQ index flirting momentarily with the bear market territory, buying the dip hasn’t exactly been a winning strategy this year.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Amazon as a Buy with a rating score of B-.

Microsoft/Fortnite

Fortnite Chapter 3, Season 2, the very popular survival game developed by Epic Games, was highly anticipated among video game players. The group has just launched this new season without any major announcement and for good reason because it falls into the Russian war in Ukraine. Aware of the context and no doubt for fear of being seen as tone-deaf, Epic Games has just made a particularly unexpected gesture. All profits from in-game purchases — outfits, accessories, monthly club, and battle passes — between March 20 and April 3 will be donated to a fund in support of victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After the announcement, Microsoft  (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report, via the Twitter account dedicated to its Xbox console, also announced that it would make a similar gesture. “Xbox is joining Epic in support of the people of Ukraine by contributing net proceeds for Fortnite during this time,” the company said. “You can also donate your Microsoft Rewards points through April 30th and Microsoft will match your contribution.” You can find details on that via Xbox’s tweet. The money raised will be given to Direct Relief, Unicef, the United Nations World Food Programme, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Microsoft as a Hold with a rating score of C+.

Google

Alphabet’s Google  (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report may not have the delivery infrastructure Amazon, Shopify, and Walmart has, but it sees the problem those companies are trying to solve. That’s why Google has launched what it’s calling Last Mile Fleet Solution. It’s not delivering for customers, it’s helping companies that already have a fleet of trucks do a better job. Basically, Google now has software that can help companies manage their delivery fleet and their customer experience better. It’s all about making sure that partners have the tools and information to make on-time deliveries.

“With Last Mile Fleet Solution, companies can improve their experiences with simplified address entry to help capture correct addresses. Shipment tracking and up-to-date arrival times allow consumers to be ready and available to receive their packages. And detailed delivery locations can help drivers drop packages off at the right place, every time,” wrote Google Maps Platform Group Project Manager Shalin Mantri on the company’s website. That seems small, but Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify usually get your order to your house. Making it easier for smaller companies to do that could level the playing field.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Alphabet as a Buy with a rating score of A.

Twitter

Everyone loves to complain about Twitter  (TWTR) – Get Twitter, Inc. Report, but almost no one ever leaves it for long. Last week Twitter introduced an update that made it so that users had to choose between two different configurations for their Twitter feed by tapping the “Sparkle” icon in the top right corner. One timeline is “Latest Tweets,” which are current Tweets as they come in from the accounts you follow, served in chronological order. The other way of viewing the timeline is the “Home,” option, in which Twitter will serve up the most popular Tweets of the moment, as determined by the company’s algorithm. 

Many users were annoyed by the change and were frustrated that they couldn’t have the “Latest Tweets” option as the default. There were also frequent complaints on Twitter that it was confusing or annoying to have to toggle between the two options, as social media needs to be an intuitive, fast process for it to be of value to users.

Jack Dorsey, the very discreet former CEO and founder of Twitter has just shown where his sympathies lie. He has just, through his Start Small, LLC fund, made donations of several million dollars to Ukrainians. Dorsey is the CEO of payment service company Block  (SQ) – Get Block Inc Class A Report. This money has been distributed to seven NGOs or charities involved in helping Ukrainians. This money — $7 million — was distributed on March 10 to CARE, World Central Kitchen, Sunflower of Peace, Razom, Mercy Corps, GlobalGiving and to Ukraine Nova.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Twitter as a Hold with a rating score of C-.

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