US companies: US companies talk cost cuts and AI like never before

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US companies are discussing cost control on earnings calls at a record rate, amid a push to reallocate funds and invest in new technologies, according to an analysis by Morgan Stanley strategists.

Transcript mentions of “operational efficiency” are at highest ever in the US during this earnings season as companies focus on expense discipline, but also invest in technologies “that can drive future productivity like AI,” a team led by Michael Wilson wrote in a note.

There is a notable overlap among the industries discussing operational efficiency most prevalently and those that are discussing AI, the strategists said.

These groups include software, professional services, health care services, and financial services. Pfizer Inc., BlackRock Inc., and Lam Research Corp. were among S&P 500 companies touting operational efficiency in their earnings calls this season, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The rising focus on cost control comes as firms position to protect margins amid hopes for a soft economic landing. Investors have looked for signs of cooling in the jobs market to gauge when the Federal Reserve will lower borrowing costs, although recent hot data has signaled the Fed won’t be easing anytime soon.

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