Fears of bubble undermine tech stocks

Better economic data pushed the Dow and S&P 500 higher last week. Photo / AP
Better economic data pushed the Dow and S&P 500 higher last week. Photo / AP

United States stocks had a mixed week with the broader market rising on better economic data, but technology stocks faltering on concerns about a downturn in the bubble-prone sector.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 89.65 (0.55 per cent) at 16,412.71, and the broad-based S&P 500 tacked on 7.47 (0.40 per cent) at 1865.09.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, after rallying in the first part of the week, finished with a net loss of 28.03 (0.67 per cent) at 4127.73 after big drops on Thursday and Friday (US time).

David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management, said overall market sentiment was "neutral" but "cautious".

Investors were scratching their heads given that technology stocks had been "leaders" in the bull market, he said.

"Because there's a lack of leadership, the market is probably more cautious. It's hard to find a catalyst to buy into this market at this point."

It was not a bad week overall. The S&P 500 even hit record closes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Most of last week's economic data were fairly solid, if unspectacular. Reports from the Institute for Supply Management showed rising activity for both manufacturing and services sector. On the downside, the US trade deficit rose sharply in February.

But the week ended with a decent jobs report from the Department of Labour, which said the US added 192,000 jobs in March. The report also revised job growth in January and February upward by 37,000 jobs.

"The post-winter rebound we hoped for did not happen, but the winter hit was smaller than previously believed," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Analysts remained guarded given the weakness in technology stocks.

The Nasdaq lost 2.6 per cent alone on Friday with deep losses extending from so-called glamour stocks such as Facebook (-4.6 per cent) and Netflix (-4.9 per cent) to larger companies such as Google (-4.7 per cent).

"It's all been momentum," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.

"As the stocks go lower and continue to go lower, portfolio managers have to react. They may not want to be selling stocks, but they can't allow this to keep going." Most analysts do not believe the Nasdaq faces a retreat like the one in the early 2000s when the bursting of the so-called tech bubble precipitated a fall in the index of more than 75 per cent from the all-time high in 2000.

For one thing, many of the sector's favoured companies are profitable. Some may be overvalued, but not as many or by as much.

"I would not say it's 1999," said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstore Wealth Management. "It's a very select group, including the biotech names, that investors really need to be careful with."

Levy said the coming earnings season would be "very important", especially for the technology sector.

A strong technology earnings season could stabilise the Nasdaq, he said, while disappointing results could trigger deeper losses.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 22 Sep 2014 16:33:38 Processing Time: 662ms