Stock Market Today: Stocks Ride Facebook’s Coattails Deep Into the Red

This week’s relief rally came to an abrupt stop Thursday as a few high-profile earnings reports cratered investor confidence and weighed on the major indexes.

Front and center was Facebook parent Meta Platforms (FB, -26.4%), which suffered its largest one-day price decline following a fourth-quarter faceplant reported last night.

Revenue of $33.7 billion beat Street expectations, but earnings of $3.67 per share missed by a wide margin. The company’s first-quarter sales guidance of $27 billion to $29 billion was also shy of analysts’ forecasts. Apple’s (AAPL) iOS privacy changes are responsible for some of FB’s woes, but it has other troubles as well.

“The revenue and expense outlook reflects a shift in content to lower monetization Reels from Newsfeed, a rebuild in targeting capabilities (that will be more AI-based), TikTok competition, and big – and now public – investments in Metaverse,” say BofA Securities analysts, who maintained their Buy rating in anticipation of an easier second half of 2022.

Streaming music provider Spotify (SPOT, -16.8%) likewise tumbled as better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue were overshadowed by weak Q1 user-growth guidance. Meanwhile, industrial conglomerate Honeywell (HON, -7.6%) posted strong Q4 results but disappointed traders with its current-quarter sales forecast.

Fears of a dour January jobs report (due Friday) also weighed on stocks.

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“Expectations are for another slowdown, with about 175,000 jobs added, down from 199,000 in December,” says Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for independent broker-dealer Commonwealth Financial Network. “With everything that is going on, especially the number of people who have the Omicron variant and are presumably not at work, that would be a great result. Unfortunately, the real number is likely to be well below that and will probably be negative – maybe significantly so.”

“But while the damage would be real, it would be a medical issue – a short-term consequence of the Omicron wave – rather than a sign of economic weakness. As the medical situation changes, so will the employment impact. … As such, a terrible jobs report in January will not derail either the labor market or the economy. More, we can also expect a very strong bounce back in February.”

Still, near-term fears clearly dominated Thursday’s session. The Nasdaq Composite fell 3.7%, to 13,878, while the S&P 500 dropped 2.4% to 4,477 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 1.5% to 35,111.

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There was better news after the bell, however. E-commerce giant Amazon.com (AMZN) surged 13% after announcing its fourth-quarter results. AMZN said revenue jumped 9% year-over-year to $137.4 billion, while adjusted earnings per share arrived at $27.75 per share – nearly double the year-ago figure. Amazon also said it was raising its annual Amazon Prime membership price by almost 17% to $139; that’s the first price hike for Prime memberships since 2018.

Social media companies Snap (SNAP, +33% after hours) and Pinterest (PINS, +18%) also surged in the evening after they reported Street-beating earnings and quarterly user growth.

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 dropped 1.9% to 1,991.
  • A massive winter storm barreling across the central portion of the country helped send U.S. crude oil futures up 2.3% to $90.72 per barrel – their first settlement north of the $90 per-barrel mark since October 2014.
  • Gold futures gave back 0.3% to finish at $1,804.10, snapping a three-day winning streak.
  • Bitcoin struggled again, retreating 3.3% to $36,366.38. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.) 
  • T-Mobile US (TMUS) was a rare splash of green in today’s trading. The telecommunications stock jumped 10.2% after the company posted higher-than-expected fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 34 cents per share and said free cash flow more than doubled year-over-year to $1.1 billion – which helped offset lower-than-anticipated quarterly revenue of $20.8 billion. “TMUS reported a solid quarter and management’s 2022 guidance alleviated concerns with shutting down legacy Sprint,” Oppenheimer analyst Timothy Horan says. “Momentum from 2021 will position TMUS for a strong year of growth in 2022. High speed internet service will be a key sector with promising growth potential.” The analyst maintained an Outperform rating on the stock, which is the equivalent of a Buy.

How to Profit From Transformational Trends

It’s easy to forget that investing is a long-term proposition when the short term is so painful. Investors in growth stocks sure have the fresh bruises to prove it.

Facebook, a consensus front-runner of the metaverse, has lost a quarter of its value this week. PayPal (PYPL), which spearheaded the revolution into digital payments, is off 28% in just four days.

However, as Kiplinger contributor Jeff Reeves explains, “the most profitable investing strategies often don’t involve reacting in real-time to short-term disruptions. Sometimes simply getting in on the ground floor of a long-term trend, and then buying and holding for years or even decades, can drive tremendous returns.”

No one knows where Facebook, PayPal and other recently battered growth plays will go from here. What we do know is that any investment in disruptive trends should be measured in years – not days or weeks.

One way to steady your hand as you try to take advantage of sweeping technological, lifestyle and other changes is to diversify your holdings. This lessens the risk that any single stock will wreck your portfolio and make you lose sight of your long-term goals.

These seven megatrend-focused stock ETFs offer such diversification – as well as the potential for outperformance – by riding powerful, secular themes.

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