A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.
The risk to tech stocks from increased regulation isn’t new. But it’s clearly increasing.
What’s happening: A House of Representatives committee just moved forward sweeping bills meant to rein in big tech companies like Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB). Meanwhile, authorities in the European Union and the United Kingdom have announced new antitrust investigations into Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOGL) this month, and India is piling on the pressure.
The push comes as existing US antitrust laws are also being tested against several of the biggest companies in ongoing court battles.
“Is it a growing risk? Yes,” Nicholas Hyett, senior equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told me. “And it probably does limit to some degree what tech stocks can do.”
Tech companies are lobbying hard against the US legislation, which could dramatically transform their businesses if enacted. Amazon (AMZN) could ultimately be forced to choose between operating a marketplace for third party sellers or returning to the days when it was the only retailer on its platform. Google could face a court order to sell YouTube or parts of its advertising operation. And Apple could be compelled to change its policies for app developers.
On the radar: President Joe Biden recently tapped Big Tech critic Lina Khan to lead the Federal Trade Commission, which would play a major role in enforcing the new legislation, if passed.
But the United States isn’t the only place these companies face pressure. The UK’s antitrust regulator recently said it’s investigating Apple and Google’s dominance in mobile operating systems, app stores and web browsers. Meanwhile, the European Union has launched an antitrust investigation into Google’s vast advertising business. Earlier in June, France’s competition authority fined Google €220 million ($263 million) “for abusing its dominant position” in the market for online advertising.
Silicon Valley is also getting bogged down in regulatory fights in India. After a long delay getting approval for its payments system in the country, Facebook’s WhatsApp is now suing the Indian government over new rules that would require it to break encryption, for example.
Investor insight: So far, investors have acknowledged that regulatory action could hit Big Tech shares, but their concerns aren’t fully baked into stock prices. Facebook hit an all-time high on Wednesday.
Hyett said some tech companies are more exposed to antitrust action than others.
“The search space is relatively speaking uncompetitive compared to social media — where you have a giant, but several other gorillas in the room, too,” he said, noting that Facebook could ultimately be in better shape than Google parent Alphabet.
That said, in the current environment, Facebook is unlikely to be able to acquire smaller competitors like it did with Instagram in 2012.
And regulation is a headwind at a time when some investors are moving money away from tech stocks and into shares they think are undervalued because of the pandemic.
“It might hold back further share price growth in tech,” Hyett said.
Wall Street firms take a tough stance on vaccines
Wall Street banks are eager for employees to return to the office as soon as possible. And if that means mandatory vaccinations, so be it.
The latest: Morgan Stanley plans to ban workers from its New York headquarters if they have not received a Covid-19 vaccine. The rule will apply to non-vaccinated guests and clients as well.
Morgan Stanley (MS) said in a memo to its employees in the New York metropolitan area that all staff working in buildings with a “large employee presence” are required to confirm their vaccination status by July 1. The Financial Times was the first to report the news.
The company plans to expand the vaccination mandate to employees and guests in other Morgan Stanley locations in New York City and nearby Westchester starting July 12.
“Operating within a fully vaccinated environment allows us to lift restrictions like the use of face coverings and the need to maintain physical distancing, returning to more normal office conditions,” a source close to the company said.
CEO James Gorman has taken a hard line on employees returning to the office.
“If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office,” he said at an investing conference earlier this month.
Gorman said then that more than 90% of the bank’s workers have said they’ve already received the vaccine, and he expected this number to eventually hit 98% to 99%. He noted that the company will deal with employees who choose not to get vaccinated for health or religious reasons on a case-by-case basis.
Disclosures required: Goldman Sachs (GS) asked its employees to be back at the office last week, and it ordered staffers to divulge whether they’ve been vaccinated. JPMorgan (JPM) is asking US staff to register their vaccine status on an internal portal by the end of the month, though they can tick a box choosing not to share details with the company if they’d like.
This year’s Amazon Prime Day broke records
Shoppers aren’t showing any signs of getting tired of Amazon Prime Day, even though some sellers said they weren’t planning to offer deals this year.
Amazon said that Prime Day, held this past Monday and Tuesday, was the biggest two-day sales period for third-party sellers in the company’s history, my CNN Business colleague Nathaniel Meyersohn reports. Sales from third-party merchants outpaced Amazon’s own sales.
The details: Prime members purchased more than 250 million items worldwide on Prime Day. Robotic vacuums, coffee makers and Crest Whitestrips were some of the top-selling products.
Overall, online spending during the two-day event surpassed $11 billion, a 6.1% increase compared to last year’s Prime Day held in October, according to Adobe Analytics.
Investor insight: The event hasn’t given Amazon’s stock much of a boost, though, as Before the Bell readers were cautioned earlier this week. Shares are up just 0.5% this week as inflation and other concerns limit enthusiasm for tech stocks.
Also today: Initial US jobless claims for last week post at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: US personal income and spending data for May.