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Why C3.ai Rallied Today

Motley Fool - Fri Dec 1, 2023

Shares of artificial intelligence software maker C3.ai(NYSE: AI) rallied 6% on Friday on a great day for AI stocks.

The software company reports earnings next week, and investors may be buying ahead of that event. After all, today saw not one but several bullish data points and commentary around AI stocks, both on the hardware and software side.

Interest rates also continued falling today, which tend to benefit low- or no-profit growth stocks. So it's no wonder that C3.ai soared to end the week.

C3.ai's peers are bullish on artificial intelligence, with results to back it up

On Thursday night, a number of C3.ai's peers in data analytics software reported stronger-than-expected earnings. Two big examples were Elastic(NYSE: ESTC), which rallied 37% today, and UiPath(NYSE: PATH), which rallied 27%.

Like C3.ai, both of these enterprise software stocks help businesses use data to become more productive. Elastic allows businesses to search their own databases to help analysts find the specific data that they're looking to analyze, and UiPath helps automate menial tasks through the use of data and machine learning. Although both companies existed in data analytics before the past year's generative AI revolution, each is also benefiting from generative AI tools.

Both companies, obviously, reported solid growth and optimism about the AI-powered future last night. In the post-earnings conference call, Elastic CEO Ash Kulkarni noted "customer excitement and engagement" around how generative AI applications could automatically draw data from Elastic's Elasticsearch Relevance Engine. Similarly, UiPath also noted it has infused its robotic process automation (RPA) suite with new generative AI features, powering an acceleration of growth.

There was also other bullish commentary today from other AI business leaders. The CEO of server maker HP Enterprise(NYSE: HPE) said that AI had reached "an inflection point" at a company conference in Barcelona earlier today. On its recent earnings release, HP's high-performance computing and artificial intelligence segment revenue was up 37%. Meanwhile, HPE peer Dell(NYSE: DELL) reported earlier this week. While the company missed on muted PC results, its server business grew sequentially, and AI-optimized server demand doubled sequentially.

And if that weren't good enough, the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond fell further today, below 4.23%, plunging well below its October highs of 5%.

That's very helpful for unprofitable stocks like C3.ai, which theoretically will have profits one day, but likely far in the future.

But investors should still be cautious about C3.ai

It should still be noted that investors should be cautious about C3.ai specifically. Although it has "AI" in its name, it may not be as big of an AI beneficiary as some other software stocks. In addition, the company is growing more slowly than Elastic and UiPath while also being less profitable.

Last quarter, C3.ai only grew 10.8%, well below the 17% growth for Elastic and 24% growth that UiPath just posted. In addition, C3.ai still forecast for significant adjusted (non-GAAP) operating losses of $70 million to $100 million this fiscal year. While both UiPath and Elastic are still generating GAAP losses due to stock-based compensation, each is currently posting adjusted operating profits.

Since it's still unclear if C3.ai is an AI contender or pretender, investors may not want to chase the stock based on Elastic's or UiPath's results ahead of next week's C3.ai report.

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Billy Duberstein has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Elastic and UiPath. The Motley Fool recommends C3.ai. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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