Artificial intelligence is one of the hottest concepts in tech, and one of the most intangible from an investing standpoint. Since “AI” seems to be something that most companies are developing internally, the concept remains difficult to invest in directly for most investors. Those wanting to invest in AI can look beyond Google, Facebook, and the rest of the FAANGs, however. According to one analyst, one should look for specific software companies that have “tremendous expertise in their specific industry, understand their customers’ businesses, and provide highly tailored solutions”. These include Aspen Systems, Guidewire Software, and Veeva Systems.
FINSUM: AI doesn’t have many widely available direct investing opportunities, so these seem like some very interesting picks if you want to bet directly on the technology.
Increasingly, investing in tech companies means you need to go big or go home. What we mean is that large cap tech companies have been outperforming their smaller peers handily. The S&P 500 Information Technology Sector is up about 14% this year, much better than the index’s 3.7% overall gain, but the S&P 600 Information Technology Sector has only gained 9.9%. That means that the largest tech company are significantly outperforming their smaller peers.
FINSUM: This is not a surprise given the overall momentum the FAANGs have had over the last few years. However, given the worries over regulation, it is odd to see they have outperformed smaller rivals very recently.
As if higher rates and Europe weren’t enough, there are plenty of other dangers currently weighing on the stock market. The two big ones are a potential trade war—sparked by Trump’s proposed tariffs on metals and beyond—which could lead to a bitter battle between the US and Europe or the US and China. The other big risk is FAANG, or big tech, regulation. Tech stocks have become such a stalwart of the market, that regulations reigning them in could prompt major losses.
FINSUM: The market does appear ripe for some regulation of tech stocks. GDPR just passed in Europe and the political climate seems ready for some regulation, but we believe it is still more likely that nothing happens.
While most publications have been running stories arguing that it may be time to get out of the FAANGs, Barron’s has a run a piece to the contrary, saying that they have more room to run. While the piece admits that the group of stocks is under a lot of pressure and is highly priced, it contends that it is not time to pull out yet. The argument is that despite accusations of misbehavior and threats from Trump, the sector will remain the centerpiece for growth investors. If the economy continues to chug (meaning stay under 3% growth), then tech’s steady growth will remain attractive.
FINSUM: We tend to like this view. Despite how richly these companies are valued, we think there is still room for medium-term value growth as regulation is still a way off and their fundamental businesses are solid.
For the last year there has been increasing public frustration with tech companies. Gone is the general perception of Silicon Valley being inherently good, replaced with an angry skepticism over data leaks, election manipulation, and automation. Now there is tangible change in the air amongst investors too. Jana Partners, along with Calstsrs, have just begged Apple to investigate the iPhone’s impact on kids, and it seems representative of a larger trend against the tech industry. There is also rumbling about regulation on the fringes, and increasing skepticism about the social impact of Amazon, in particular its effect on Main Street, jobs, and inflation (although the general public NEVER misses inflation).
FINSUM: We think there is a big change brewing for the tech industry, and that the next decade will likely be a lot more difficult than the last.