The US sharemarket's meteoric rise has been driven in no small part by its technology stocks. Now, the news that Japan's SoftBank has been driving up prices in the sector through some high-risk trading practices has sent a shiver through Wall Street.
London's Financial Times last week unmasked SoftBank, a multinational conglomerate, as the "whale" that bought call options on existing long positions in US tech stocks.
When the news came out, the tech-heavy Nasdaq index went into a tailspin.
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Market speculation was that SoftBank may have levered its bet by more than 20 times. That set off price momentum investors and retail investors such as the many who use Robinhood and other retail-centric investment platforms.
Salt Funds managing director Matt Goodson said that with central banks heading towards zero interest rates - and in some cases adopting a negative rate regime - coupled with the worldwide trend of heightened retail demand for shares, the tech rally was not over yet.
"Is this the 'beginning of the end' or the 'end of the beginning' for the tech bubble? Only time will tell, but we fear the latter given that central bankers are keeping the monetary spigots running," Goodson says.
Steffan Berridge, senior quantitative strategist at Kiwi Invest - a fund manager with a global focus - said SoftBank runs many different sorts of risks in its portfolio and is often in the news for doing things differently.
He says this may not necessarily be even the biggest risk SoftBank is running, but it certainly is a new development.
Berridge says that for the market as a whole, it shows the tech selloff last week was probably more of a consolidation triggered by the realisation that the option positions contributed to tech's recent outperformance, and exacerbated by further hedging on those options as prices slid.
"But because this is fairly technical, I think it's more likely this is a buying opportunity in tech, than that it's a turning point," he said.
Not remotely interested
The New Zealand Shareholders' Association's stance on "virtual" electronic annual meetings has not softened, despite them becoming par for the course during Covid-19 lockdowns.
In 2017 the association successfully talked Z Energy into reversing its decision to dump physical annual meetings in favour of cheaper virtual ones, and association chief executive Michael Midgley said its position had not changed.
"The more we have, the more horrible they are," Midgley says.
"It's very hard to ask a question and it's very hard to ask follow-up questions"
"You don't get the demeanour of the meeting.
"It's the asking of questions and getting answers to them that is the most unsatisfactory thing.
"Hybrid meetings are fine, and if you can't be there then so are webcast meetings, but there is no substitute for being in the room and asking questions," Midgely says.
Air New Zealand this week advised that its annual meeting, set down for September 29, would be through a virtual platform only.
Local drugs company AFT Pharmaceuticals has not totally escaped the pandemic.
AFT said Covid-19 had led to delays in clinical trials and difficulties in getting products to market, particularly to the Northern Hemisphere.
But chairman David Flacks said that the problems only marginally detracted from what was a pivotal year for the company.
In the 2020 financial year the company broke through the $100 million revenue barrier to reach $105.6m, a 24 per cent improvement on the prior year, and its underlying operating profit for the year was up 87 per cent to $11.4m.
AFT's Maxigesic – its engine of growth in international markets – continued to gain traction.
The tablet form of the medicine is now sold in 28 countries, up from 20 a year ago "and we continue to see potential for sales in as many as 125 different territories".
Flacks expects operating profit to rise by 23 to 58 per cent to $14m-$18m in the current year.
Changing the guard
News this week that travel booking software company Serko is to replace the once-great industrial stock NZ Refining in the S&P/NZX50 index is being seen as a sign of the times.
Salt's Goodson says it's emblematic of "how the intangible is replacing the tangible".
As recently as 2015, NZ Refining made a $150m net profit. Now its market cap is just $209m.
"Serko has a market cap of $395m, made a loss of $9.4m in the June 2020 year and was unable to provide a forecast for 2021 given the impact of Covid-19," Goodson said.
Index changes can have a big impact on stocks because of the influence of passive funds, which invest in stocks in relation to their weighting on various indices.
Looking forward, with the acquisition of Metlifecare by Asia Pacific Village Group currently proceeding, brokers Forsyth Barr suggested that the most likely replacement on the index would be either Tower or Hallenstein Glasson.