With tech falling so strongly in recent days, a sense of panic is spreading across the media and markets, and it is all centered around one question—will the trouble in tech bring down the whole market? Tech accounts for a major part of the total capitalization of the market, and thus its ability to bring down stocks as a whole is strong. This seemed to be evidenced yesterday, as big falls in Netflix and Twitter conspired to bring all major indexes down significantly, though the Nasdaq fell the most. Now all eyes will turn to Apple, the only FAANG stock in the Dow, as it releases earnings.
FINSUM: Tech has accounted for so much of the price expansion and earnings growth of the market that it has an importance that extends even beyond these. Thus, we think a lot of investor sentiment about the whole market hinges on the performance of tech.
Last week’s nosedive in Facebook shares was nothing short of historic. Twitter followed close on its heels. The big question for investors is whether these flops signal anything about the greater market, or were they just idiosyncratic falls? The answer is that they may. Stocks are very concentrated at the moment, with a small group of tech stocks—the FAANGS—driving the gains. Therefore, losses in that group could drive down the whole market, and even be seen as a bellwether. Today’s concentration is roughly on par with 1999, but differently, all the leaders are in the same sector—tech, making the market more vulnerable. Because tech companies are also the engine for growth, their predicted expansions make up an even larger share of forecasted earnings growth than their current market capitalization.
FINSUM: We see the point of this argument, but we do want to point out one important caveat: the word “tech” itself. We use that term very liberally today. While it is easy to say the concentration is dangerous because all the constituents are “tech”, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix are all very different businesses, so perhaps not as intercorrelated as “tech” would indicate.
Yesterday was an absolutely monstrous one to be an investor in Facebook. In what will likely go down as a history-making day for the company, Facebook shares dropped a whopping 20% yesterday, equating to more than $100 bn of value lost. The huge losses were sparked by weaker than expected revenue growth as well as flat or falling user bases. That sent the stock down 7%. However, it was the guidance provided on a conference call that really spelled doom. The company’s CFO said that he expected weak revenue growth to continue, while costs were expected to rise 50-60% this year.
FINSUM: The big rise in costs is coming because Facebook is hiring 20,000 staff to increase cybersecurity. The need to do so does not bode well for the stock or the tech sector generally.
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.