Tech Stocks Are Getting Crushed

  • The group is down for a second day even as cyclicals advance
  • Some see a threat to multinationals from Trump trade policies

Why Tech Stocks Are Missing Out on the Rally

The election of Donald Trump has been stock market manna for every industry that benefits from an expanding economy but one: technology.

Losses among computer and software makers mushroomed Thursday and were pronounced in the FANG block of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc., each of which fell at least 1.9 percent. The Nasdaq 100 Index slumped 1.6 percent at 4 p.m. in New York, the biggest retreat since Sept. 9.

While opinions vary about what’s going on, one possibility was concern about the impact of Trump’s policies on trade overseas, where U.S. technology companies thrive. Others saw a rational retreat for a group that through Election Day had surged 11 percent in 2016, or even the potential for retaliation by the president-elect against an industry that didn’t exactly cozy up to him during the campaign.

“There’s been these violent moves as investors try to sort out what the election means,” said Terry Morris, manager director of equities at BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. “These exaggerated moves are just that, and I think we’re going to come back to more reasonable valuations.”

Investors are shifting focus to banks and commodity producers amid speculation that Trump policies such as tax cuts and fiscal spending will benefit companies that are more geared toward the economy. Financial shares rallied 3.7 percent Thursday to their highest level since May 2008, while industrial stocks advanced 2.1 percent.

Tech shares are moving in the opposite direction from the market at a rate last seen when the Internet bubble was bursting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.2 percent, for a divergence of more than 2 percentage points that’s the widest since March 2001, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Tech stocks were the biggest drag on the S&P 500 Index, slumping with defensive shares such as utilities and consumer staples whose losses exceeded 4 percent over two days. Facebook slid 1.9 percent to $120.79. Amazon was down 3.8 percent to $742.25 after falling as much as 7 percent earlier. Netflix declined 5.5 percent to $115.42 in its biggest slide since July. Alphabet lost 3.1 percent to $780.29.

“The fear has unwound into a rotation into different sectors once everybody was able to look at the landscape and see what sectors were benefiting and which ones are not,” said Joe Bell, a Cincinnati-based senior equity analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research Inc. “Some of those names that are beaten down badly from a market-cap perspective have outperformed recently with the election results.”

Trump’s presidency leaves the U.S. tech industry in an uncomfortably uncertain position. Total contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign from the internet industry came in at 114 times the level they did for Trump, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a strongly worded rebuke to Trump’s views on immigration at the company’s developers conference in April, although he never called him out by name.

Clinton had laid out plans for targeted tax credits, pledged to carry on Obama’s policies towards net neutrality, and a national commission on digital security and encryption. It was met with wide approval from an industry that thrived during the Obama years.

Tech’s decline resumed a retreat that started during the latest earnings season, where companies from Apple Inc. and Amazon.com reported disappointing results, sending the Nasdaq 100 to a nine-day slump through Nov. 4. The story of retailing in the past few quarters has been Amazon.com gaining at the department stores’ expense. Today, that’s being turned on its head after better-than-expected results from Macy’s and Kohl’s.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, sparred with Trump through his candidacy. Trump, responding to negative coverage in the Post, maintained Bezos purchased the news organization to gain political influence and avoid anti-trust scrutiny.

While Alphabet and Netflix beat analysts’ estimates, higher valuations are one reason that investors are more inclined to sell, especially after their outsize gains this year. At an average of 140 times profit, the Fang group traded at a multiple that’s seven times the S&P 500’s.

The loss may be another blow to hedge funds, who have crowded to the industry and pushed bullish bets on the group to an all-time high last month. According to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data, large speculators were net long more than 160,000 Nasdaq 100 mini futures contracts at the end of October after boosting positions in five of the past six weeks.

“The group has been popular for hedge funds to own,’’ Brett Mock, a managing director at JonesTrading LLC in Mill Valley, California, said in an interview. “Some are not sure what Trump victory means for trade and multinationals, so have to assume there is not as much enthusiasm short term to own. It could also just be noise. There are lot of short-term repositioning last few sessions around election.’’

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