How Google, Facebook, Amazon Will Ride The AI Wave

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are projected to add $15.7 trillion to global GDP by the year 2030, an increase of 14% over baseline projections, according to PwC, a leading international accounting and consulting firm. Based on this and similar projections made by another consulting firm, Accenture, analysts at Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) have issued outperform ratings on nine stocks that they believe are well-positioned to ride the AI wave to greater profits and also longterm outperformance in the stock market, Barron's reports.

While computers now dominate government, Corporate America and Wall Street, the growing use of AI is moving technology many steps further by enabling computers to think, learn and reason like humans, enabling computers to perform more sophisticated tasks.

9 Stocks 

Five of these companies are based in the U.S. While they are all technology leaders, they serve a broad array of markets that include consumers and corporations: Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL); e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN); social networking leader Facebook Inc. (FB); online marketplace eBay Inc. (EBAY); and video streaming service Netflix Inc. (NFLX). The other four are Chinese: social networking, payments, and online entertainment provider Tencent Holding Ltd. (TCEHY); online merchants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) and JD.com Inc. (JD); and Internet search, e-commerce platform, online payments processor, and web application software provider Baidu Inc. (BIDU).  These companies' dominance in their markets and in key sectors of the Internet position them well to exploit artificial intelligence as its influence spreads. (For more, see also: 7 Global Stocks For The Next Internet Boom.)

Tidal Wave of AI Spending

In an attempt to put that $15 trillion or so in perspective, that's almost the current size of U.S. GDP ($18 trillion), over six times current global spending on e-commerce ($2.4 trillion), and 30 times current worldwide spending on advertising ($500 billion), according to the report by Wells Fargo as quoted by Barron's. Wells Fargo anticipates advances in neural network science that will produce stronger engagement among mobile and Internet users, with benefits for e-commerce and subscription-based business models. More specifically, artificial neural networks (modeled on the natural neural networks in human brains) are designed to facilitate machine learning, or the ability of computers to solve problems without task-specific programming.

The early adoption of AI will be mainly in North America as companies boost productivity, PwC  says. However, they expect China to pull ahead in ten years, enjoying a 26% GDP boost by 2030, versus 14.5% in North America. Of the $15.7 trillion AI-driven global GDP increase forecasted for 2030, about $10.7 trillion will be in North America and China combined, or 68% of the total, PwC projects. In China, AI is projected to have its biggest industry impact in manufacturing, which is especially significant for the global economy since China is the world leader in manufacturing, Wells Fargo says, as quoted by Barron's.

Stock Performance

For the nine companies recommended by Wells Fargo, their 52 week share price gains through Wednesday, and current forward P/E ratios, are, respectively: Alphabet, 19%, 24; Amazon, 15%, 121; Facebook, 30%, 26; eBay, 19%, 17; Netflix, 87%, 89; Tencent, 54%, NA; Alibaba, 57%, 26; JD.com, 51%, 44; and Baidu, 28%, 27. For Tencent, the trailing P/E is 50. The source of this data is Yahoo Finance, which obtained forward earnings estimates from Thomson Reuters Corp. (TRI).

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