Adobe (ADBE -0.73%) shares are trailing a weak market this year. The stock declined 35% through the first half of 2022, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, compared to a 21% drop in the broad-market S&P 500 index.
That slump doesn't look as bad when you add some context. Over the last three years, the software specialist's stock is modestly outperforming the market's 28% increase, after all. And Adobe is in good company among major cloud services providers -- Microsoft and Amazon are also underperforming the market in 2022.
Yet Adobe's share price decline also reflects a few company-specific worries about its short-term growth potential.
Like many formerly high-flying growth stocks, Adobe has turned in a mixed performance so far in 2022. Yes, its top-line growth through Q2 was strong, with sales rising 14% in the most recent quarter. Its software-as-a-service model is delivering solid cash flow, too, just as management predicted it would.
But its expansion pace is slowing compared to earlier phases of the pandemic, when more work was occurring remotely. The shifts back toward more normal work and leisure patterns have left investors concerned about a persistent growth hangover in sales of Adobe's creative software platform. Year-over-year revenue gains had been above 20% a year ago, but are now closer to 15%.
The main factor pressuring Adobe's stock is uncertainty around where those growth rates will stabilize over the next few months. In mid-June, management issued a conservative outlook for the rest of 2022, saying that there are new pressures on revenue, including weakening demand in the summer months.
Executives asserted that the company's expected fiscal Q3 slowdown will simply be a seasonal issue that will give way to rebounding demand to close out the fiscal year. Adobe is still on pace to achieve nearly $18 billion of sales in 2022 compared to $15.8 in 2021 and $12.9 billion in 2020. Yet investors are hyper-focused on the short term right now, and worried that demand will slow more sharply over the next two quarters.