Poor report cards at US companies fan recession fears

Oct 25 (Reuters) – US companies from tech giants Alphabet (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) to GE (GE.N) and toymaker Mattel (MAT.O) on Tuesday reported big slowdowns in growth or warned things were going to get worse, fanning recession fears and driving down stocks.

The rash of disappointing results points to a host of problems plaguing the American economy. A strong dollar has hurt the overseas profits of large firms, while soaring inflation has prompted interest rate hikes and companies to raise product prices, even as consumers have been forced to cut spending.

US consumer confidence ebbed in October, data showed Tuesday, after two straight monthly increases amid heightened inflation concerns and worries of a possible recession next year.

After years of turbo-charged growth, Microsoft posted its slowest rise in sales in five years and Google parent Alphabet grew just 6% last quarter at its slowest pace since September 2013 barring a small quarterly decline in 2020.

Google, which many had expected to be more resilient because of its status as the world’s largest digital advertising platform by market share, shocked the market with weaker-than-estimated advertising revenue as customers in the insurance, mortgages and cryptocurrencies industries tightened their ad budgets .

“Despite being seen as one of the most insulated companies in the advertising space relative to peers, Google’s poor quarter is the latest sign that worsening fundamentals and a tough macroeconomic environment are prompting advertisers to cut back on spending,” said Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at Investing.com.

Google’s results bode ill for Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META.O), which is especially reliable on advertising and reports results on Wednesday. Last week, its smaller rival Snap Inc (SNAP.N) forecast no revenue growth for the holiday quarter, setting off warning bells in the social media industry.

Alphabet said it plans to cut hiring by more than half.

Conglomerate GE, which is in the process of breaking up into three companies, said it will reduce global headcount by a fifth at its onshore wind unit, which has been battling higher raw material costs due to inflation and supply-chain pressures.

Shares in Alphabet slumped 7% in trading after the bell. Microsoft fell 2% and chipmaker Texas Instruments , which forecast quarterly revenue and profit below estimates, was down 5%. Shares in Spotify (SPOT.N), which also warned on slow advertising growth, slid 4%. Meta shares fell 4%.

A lack of demand for personal computers and laptops was evident in Microsoft’s past quarter as its Windows business slumped 15%, a sharp turnaround after months of pandemic-fueled sales thanks to people working and studying from home.

Texas Instruments (TI) echoed the sentiment, backing up similar predictions from fellow chipmakers Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) earlier this month.

“During the quarter we experienced expected weakness in personal electronics and expanding weakness across industrial,” said TI boss Rich Templeton. The company like other chipmakers has to content with gadget makers cutting orders to clear stockpiles of chips after the pandemic-led boost in demand quickly flipped to a slump in a matter of weeks.

Weak demand for consumer electronics has also been flagged by Apple (AAPL.O) iPhone assembler Foxconn (2317.TW) as China’s economy has slowed dramatically on COVID-19 related curbs.

Mattel, which is very susceptible to discretionary spending cuts, lowered its profit forecast for the year and said it would ramp up promotions heading into the busy holiday season to encourage inflation-hit shoppers to buy its Barbie dolls.

Earlier on Tuesday, post-it maker 3M Co said it expected weak consumer spending to continue into the upcoming holiday season and cut its full-year forecasts.

Still, there were bright spots in the report cards.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) reported quarterly sales and profits that topped the Street as wealthier customers chowed down on their burritos despite higher prices even as lower-income consumers ate there less often.

Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), a favorite in a slowdown, joined rival PepsiCo Inc (PEP.O) in lifting its annual forecasts, as customers bought their sugary sodas despite multiple rounds of price hikes.

Reporting by Chavi Mehta, Tiyashi Datta, Eva Mathews, Uday Sampath Kumar, Granth Vanaik, Deborah Mary Sophia, Aditya Soni, Mehr Bedi, Kannaki Deka and Abhijith Ganapavaramin in Bengaluru, Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland, Sheila Dang in Dallas, Hilary Russ in New York and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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