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Making Sense of Big Tech Stock Losses

February 6, 2018, 1:55 PM UTC

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. Sign up here.

When I covered markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s I hated days like Monday. Stocks plummeted more or less in lock step, and I had to call “experts” to explain why. They made up reasons, and I printed them. It was all highly unsatisfying.

So is trying to say anything intelligent about why everything was down Monday, including Apple (2.5%) (AAPL), Amazon (3%) (AMZN), Alibaba (4%) (BABA), and Alphabet (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) (5% a piece). A day when everything craters couldn’t be less interesting to someone who tells stories about individual companies. Last week, by comparison, when Alphabet and Apple dropped as Amazon jumped, all in response to their respective earnings reports, was at least informative about their relative performance.

Massive stock market drops are absolutely real, and over time they can affect everything from corporate strategies to employee retention. It’s best to focus, though, on the “over time” part of the equation. One day means next to nothing.


A mentor of mine—her name is Xana Antunes—once taught me that sometimes the best stuff is in the 17th paragraph or so of a news article. I found two such impressive examples in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. Columnist Christopher Mims reported that steadily growing services revenues were 9.6% of Apple’s total in its most recent quarter but 16% in its fourth fiscal quarter. The point is that services are smoothing out an otherwise lumpy business. Smart insight. Similarly, a detailed look at Apple Music and Spotify by Anne Steele teases out the incredibly complicated ways the companies record their user data. Her conclusion: Apple Music may best Spotify in the U.S. sooner than most thought.


Briefly … In my sheltered world, it’s an odd feeling when someone you know even a little is in prison. That’s how I’ve felt this last year thinking about the urbane, charming, powerful Jay Y. Lee behind bars in his native South Korea. I profiled him in in Fortune in 2015. Monday he was freed. … I couldn’t catch all the Super Bowl ads Sunday night, and Monday I missed the chance to praise another: Amazon’s spoof on Alexa losing her voice … I mis-linked yesterday to an Economist article about advocates of a consumer’s union for data. Here’s the correct link.