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Cloud Computing Seen as Tech Haven Amid Pandemic Uncertainty

The coronavirus pandemic has pressured nearly every corner of the global economy, but analysts continue to see sunny days ahead for cloud computing and the ecosystem that surrounds the technology.

(Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus pandemic has pressured nearly every corner of the global economy, but analysts continue to see sunny days ahead for cloud computing and the ecosystem that surrounds the technology.

The sub-sector is seen as a rare bright spot in the current environment, particularly as the outbreak pushes more people to work remotely, contributing to a long-term trend of rising demand. The boost is expected to be broad based, helping software companies, communication firms, and chipmakers that focus on data-center products, which are processors used in cloud computing.

“The lasting impact of Covid-19 could actually be a net positive,” wrote Richard Baldry, an analyst at Roth Capital Partners. Cloud-based communication companies “should see increased customer activity, at least once operational bandwidth returns to a somewhat more normal level for prospects.” He listed Five9, Medallia, eGain and LivePerson as names that could see stronger demand and which were trading at valuations he views as attractive.

So far this year, the Global X Cloud Computing ETF -- an exchange-traded fund that tracks an index of companies involved in the space -- is down 6.4%. A different ETF, the First Trust Cloud Computing ETF, is down 9.2%. Both have outperformed the S&P 500’s drop of more than 15% over the same period.

According to Wedbush, the pandemic has thrown “sales cycles, procurement/IT departments, and budgets into a tornado-like state of chaos,” resulting in unprecedented risks to IT spending. Even in this environment, analyst Daniel Ives wrote, “cloud remains a theme”; he expects $1 trillion to be spent on cloud computing over the coming decade.

Ives named Microsoft as “the Rock of Gibraltar cloud stock to own,” but said the trend would also support the cloud-computing businesses of both Amazon and Alphabet.

Earlier this week, Bank of America referred to cloud-focused chipmakers as a “shining house in [a] tough neighborhood,” referring to the headwinds facing other areas of the industry. Analyst Vivek Arya expects cloud capex to rise 13% in 2020. While this is down from a prior view of 16% growth -- the lower estimate reflects “the most current Covid-19 headwinds” -- it represents a “robust acceleration” from 2019, when capex grew just 3.5%.

The firm listed Broadcom, Nvidia, Advanced Micro Devices, Marvell Technology and Intel among the chipmakers most exposed to this trend. Nvidia has been one of the rare semiconductor gainers this year, and analysts have pointed to its data-center business as a tailwind.

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