"Artificial intelligence" might sound like an overused buzzword to many people. But astute investors know AI is already positively changing the way companies all over the world do business.
With that in mind, we asked three top Motley Fool contributors to each discuss an artificial intelligence stock you should be watching closely this month. Read on to see why they chose Facebook (META 7.19%), Visa (V 4.51%), and Alphabet (GOOG 5.20%) (GOOGL 5.11%).
Can Facebook sustain its momentum?
Steve Symington (Facebook): Facebook is set to release first-quarter 2019 results next Wednesday, April 24, 2019, and what's contained in the report will help set the tone for both the online advertising and broader tech industries. Shares of the social media juggernaut are already up 36% so far in 2018 -- albeit after plunging 26% last year as it traversed a difficult combination of data-privacy scandals, the spread of misinformation on its platforms, and concerns over decelerating top-line growth as Facebook builds on a larger base. With the help of AI, Facebook is striving to address those concerns.
That said, Facebook management did offer some color on what to expect during the January conference call, namely that first-quarter revenue growth should decelerate by a mid-single-digit-percent range (from 30% in Q4 2018). To that end -- and though we don't usually pay close attention to Wall Street's demands -- most analysts see the company delivering earnings of $1.63 per share on a 25.1% increase in revenue, to $14.97 billion.
Just as important will be the trends underlying that growth. Last quarter, the company saw daily and monthly active users each climb 9%, to 1.52 billion and 2.32 billion, respectively, and roughly 2.7 billion people hopped on at least one of its platforms -- including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger -- every month. If Facebook is seeing success with its recent efforts to combat last year's problems and win back the trust of the public, we should hope to see its number of users continue to steadily climb.
AI is everywhere you want to be
Anders Bylund (Visa): Payment-processing veteran Visa may not be the first company that springs to mind in a discussion about artificial intelligence, but maybe it should. Take this snippet from a management presentation at a recent industry conference:
"The services that we offer that are extremely high value-added and in many ways have economics that are very similar to our core business and very much leverage of core business or things like risks services, fraud management and all that, authentication services, data analytics where we continue to add to our capabilities with AI," said CFO Vasant Prabhu, according to a transcript compiled by Seeking Alpha. "We've always been doing machine learning, especially on fraud."
Yep, you can thank artificial intelligence for the fraud warnings that drop in whenever your card issuer finds suspicious activity in your credit card accounts. Visa and its peers have actually been on the bleeding edge of AI tools in practical use for many years. These antifraud processes should continue improving over time as Visa takes advantage of more advanced technologies, ranging from neural networks to blockchain transactions.
Visa is gearing up for a second-quarter earnings report next Wednesday. AI probably won't be a big talking point in that presentation, but you can rest assured that Visa takes advantage of the technology in a big way and will only continue to deepen its machine learning roots.
A quiet AI leader
Chris Neiger (Alphabet): Alphabet makes the bulk of its revenue by selling ads across its various Google services platforms, but the company is also an artificial intelligence powerhouse, and it's making considerable investments in AI now -- so it can benefit later.
Take, for example, Alphabet's self-driving vehicle company Waymo. The company has logged more than 10 million miles of autonomous driving, and at the end of 2018, Waymo launched one of the first commercial self-driving car services in the country. Without AI, Waymo's vehicles wouldn't be able to navigate traffic, avoid pedestrians, or learn from past driving experiences. The company stands to benefit from this AI pursuit by licensing some of its tech to other companies and selling its own services, all of which could help Waymo generate nearly $100 billion in sales over the next decade.
Autonomous vehicles aren't Alphabet's only AI bet though. Alphabet also owns DeepMind, an artificial-intelligence tech company that's already proving itself invaluable. Just last month, DeepMind used some of its machine learning algorithms to predict when some of Google's wind farms would produce the most wind, thereby generating the most energy, and scheduled some of the energy to be sent back to the electric grid. Why is this important? Because AI-powered tools like this are poised to help add $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030 by creating new services and making existing ones more efficient. Imagine the same tech being used not just for Google's wind farms but in power grids across the country.
With Alphabet already knee deep in developing the AI tools and services that will make our lives more efficient, investors should consider snatching up shares of this tech giant now.
The bottom line
In today's fast-changing technology world, we certainly can't guarantee that any given stock will go on to deliver outsized returns and beat the market in the process. But with the help of AI, it appears Facebook, Visa, and Alphabet could be poised to do exactly that. And we think at the very least, investors would do well to add these stocks to their watch lists this month.