'AI' stays front-and-center on quarterly conference calls

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows miniature of robot and toy hand

By Noel Randewich

(Reuters) - Artificial intelligence remains a hot topic on earnings conference calls this quarter by Microsoft, Alphabet and others across Wall Street, even as investors look for more evidence their big bets on the emerging technology will pay off.

The terms "AI" or "artificial intelligence" have been uttered on 38% of conference calls held by S&P 500 companies in January, a Reuters analysis of LSEG transcripts shows. That is up from 34% at the same point during the third-quarter reporting season, and it is in line with the second quarter, when discussion of AI spiked.

Microsoft, Apple and Advanced Micro Devices late on Tuesday talked up how customers are lapping up their generative AI-powered products. But mounting costs of developing the cutting-edge features have irked investors, and the three stocks fell on Wednesday, with Alphabet tumbling as much as 7%.

The ongoing prominence of AI on the conference calls reflects a surge in Wall Street heavyweight shares that investors view as most likely to benefit from the technology. That rally helped send the S&P 500 24% higher last year, and in recent sessions it elevated Microsoft, Alphabet, Nvidia, Broadcom and others to record highs.

"AI" has been mentioned an average of 3.5 times per S&P 500 call so far in January, up from 3.3 times per call at the same point during the October quarter.

Alphabet and Microsoft's conference calls have led other companies in mentions of AI this month, with "AI" or "artificial intelligence" used 53 and 52 times, respectively.

They are followed by software seller ServiceNow, whose call last week had 51 mentions of the terms; and AMD, with 42 mentions on its Tuesday call.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Richard Chang)