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Ignore tech stocks at your peril, this portfolio manager says

Are we living through another tech meltdown similar to the dot-com crash? Not likely, says portfolio manager John Zechner, who thinks there are plenty of reasons to be bullish on the sector.

We’ve seen this scenario played out before in technology stocks, where a strong, multi-year run-up was followed by a huge pullback. The dot-com era in the late 90s and into 2000 saw stocks across the board rise and then dramatically plunge, and while that kind of cycle is endemic to markets in general, the ensuing fallow period for tech was not so common: over ten years of compressed multiples and little to no gains for companies that managed to survive the razing of the tech landscape. 

Take a name like Microsoft. The stock went from a high of over $60 to start 2000 to the low $20 range by the end of the year. But it’s what followed that puts the chill in today’s investors’ hearts: even with Microsoft’s businesses humming along and growing steadily, it took a good six years for the stock to make it back to $60.

But Zechner says the situation is quite different today, primarily because today’s tech companies are much more tried and tested than the fly-by-night names that blew up with dot-com. He argues that while the past year’s reckoning did justifiably apply to some corners of the market — including spaces like cryptocurrencies, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) and COVID-related names like Peloton — the big tech names are much too solid to follow suit.

“Yes, we did have some massive speculation in some areas over the last couple of years … [but] when I look at big tech and I look at the ecosystems and the way they dominate, whether it’s iOS or Alphabet or the Google system and Microsoft and the cloud, even Amazon and cloud, these are behemoths,” said Zechner, Chairman of J. Zechner Associates, who spoke on BNN Bloomberg on Friday.

“They continue to get a bigger share of the wallet and they continue to generate these massive free cash flows that they can reinvest in growth areas. So, I think they will retain their premium multiples, and from the point of view of investment, I think you ignore these at your own peril. I don’t think you want to get out of them just because they’ve had a really tough year,” he said.

Zechner pointed to stocks in the semiconductor space as looking particularly attractive, both due to the huge pullback for stocks in the sector and for the industry tailwinds still supporting growth. 

More broadly, Zechner said the upcoming year is likely to be tough on stocks, even as he predicts interest rates to peak during the first half of the year.

“It gets back to whose earnings are going to grow at the fastest rate, and I think technology hands down will be the leader there,” he said.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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