At the end of each year, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) compiles the Zeitgeist. Google uses the search data it collected for the year to find out what the most popular searches were and breaks down the results for the curious to digest. For example, the most searched-for person was Miley Cyrus, the most searched-for beer was Blue Moon, and the most searched-for dog breed was the bulldog.
All of it is interesting — if not totally useful — information. What market watchers may find offers the best of both worlds, though, is Google’s list of the most searched-for stocks of the year. Any company that falls at the top of this list has either done very well or very poorly for itself.
Here are some hints: four out of five are tech or Internet companies that trade on the Nasdaq, and one of them makes cars.
5. BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ:BBRY)
The company formerly known as Research in Motion has pretty much been nothing but bad news for investors this year. Shares are down about 40 percent for the 52-week period, and many of it executives appear ready to or have already stepped away.
Earlier in the year, as it became clear that BlackBerry’s new series of flagship phones weren’t selling enough to buoy the entire company, rumors abounded that the firm would try to sell itself, either whole or piecemeal, and that would be that. In November, though, BlackBerry surprised many market watchers by announcing that it would abandon plans to sell itself and instead undergo a massive restructuring under a new CEO in an attempt to pull off a turnaround.
BlackBerry’s third-quarter earnings are evidence in favor of an overhaul. Revenue fell 24 percent on the quarter and 56 percent on the year to $1.2 billion, below the mean analyst estimate of $1.59 billion. Adjusted losses from continuing operations fell to 67 cents per share, below the mean analyst estimate of 45 cents per share. Unadjusted, GAAP losses came in at $8.37 per share, due largely to about $4.3 billion in pretax non-cash charges against assets, inventories, and supply commitments.
4. Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)
Looking in the rearview mirror, Google’s story is about as different from BlackBerry’s as a company can get while still remaining in the same sector. Google stock is up about 58 percent over the past 52 weeks, and many market participants are still bullish, arguing that the world’s search leader and the maker of most widely adopted smartphone platform will outperform through 2014 and beyond.
Google’s popularity appears to be a product of a relationship between how well it’s doing as a company and how interesting it is. For example, Google scored itself some headlines when it confirmed hat it had completed its acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that had previously designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The acquisition of Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company acquired by the Internet giant in the past year alone, leading to speculation as to what Google’s overarching goal is when it comes to robotics.
3. Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR)
Twitter has only been a publicly traded company for a couple of months, but it has had the eye of the market for a long time. Even before initial public offering plans began to solidify, Twitter was brought up as a natural accessory in conversations about the social media industry and online advertising.
Shares of Twitter are up 63.27 percent since opening day, but the valuation does appear to be overinflated, and a number of analysts have offered a negative opinion of the stock for the short term. For example, Wells Fargo analysts cited data showing that only about half of Twitter’s monthly active users actually tweet, while the other half just use the microblogging site for reading. Those more passive users are much less valuable to advertisers, as they’re less likely to retweet companies’ tweets or follow company accounts.
Morgan Stanley hit Twitter with the downgrade stick earlier in December, cutting its rating on the stock from Market Perform to Underperform with a price target in a range between $36 and $39. Echoing the concerns of other analysts with a bearish outlook on the stock, analyst Peter Stabler cited high valuation, overinflated investor expectations, and underlying risks as reasons for the downgrade.
2. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA)
Tesla stock has taken investors on an insane ride this year. Shares have climbed more than 361 percent over the past 52-week period, and although the company’s valuation does look somewhat stretched, many investors are still very bullish. Like Google, Tesla benefits from the dual positives of increased business performance and an aesthetic appeal that is good for popularity.
For many, the real moment of truth for Tesla will come when the company releases a true mass-market car. Tesla could be on track to produce such a vehicle by 2015.
A couple of Tesla vehicles also caught fire over the course of the year, which made headlines and, for better or worse, helped drive some of the company’s popularity. The vehicle fires — taking place in Seattle, Washington; Merida, Mexico; and near Smyrna, Tennessee — and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s revelation of further supply constraints during the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call gave investors cause for concern, but shares are still driving forward.
1. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB)
Facebook was the most popular stock of the year, according to Google trends, and it’s easy to see why. After infamously flopping in the wake of its IPO, shares are up more than 121 percent over the past 52-week period. At least for the time being, the social media company has won the hearts and capital of investors from the institutional to the retail.
Facebook is the largest social network in the world, and its business decisions catch the eye of all its users. Recently, the company announced that it would be rolling out promoted videos, a feature that will allow advertisers to place videos directly into the News Feed. The video content — the rollout of which will be monopolized by Summit Entertainment’s upcoming film Divergent – will play automatically, with audio enabled only if a user clicks or taps on the video.
The reaction to the announcement was immediate, and much of it was negative. Facebook has a dual mandate, commanding service both to users and marketers whose wants and needs are often at odds.