Jan 29, 2023
FOMO-Fueled Tech Rally Steamrolls Over Pile of Earnings Warnings
(Bloomberg) -- Earnings from high-profile technology companies last week ranged from uninspiring to downright disastrous. But that didn’t stop traders from scooping up tech stocks ahead of more potential land mines.
Almost everywhere you look in the stock market, fear is vanishing.
The Nasdaq 100 Stock Index is on pace for its best January since 1999 despite warning signs from the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. and another expected interest-rate hike from the Federal Reserve. The Cboe Volatility Index sank within striking distance of a 10-month low on Friday, signalling less angst in the market. Meanwhile, options trading on megacaps last week showed demand hasn’t jumped for protection against a selloff.
“This is an investor driven market where folks want to view the glass as half full,” Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Friday. “They want to look through the bad news and hope for better days.”
Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are slated to report earnings Thursday, following a week that was littered with worrisome results. Microsoft warned that sales growth from its important Azure cloud-computing business is slowing. Intel reported revenue that dropped by about one-third in the final quarter of 2022 and gave an equally grim forecast. International Business Machines Corp.’s earnings were marred by weaker-than-expected profitability.
The poor showings, however, weren’t enough to stop the Nasdaq 100 from advancing 4.7% on the week, nearly double the return of the broader S&P 500 Index.
“This is a rally being fueled by momentum based on the fear of missing out at the beginning of the year and on the thought that a pause by the Fed will create the same kind of investment atmosphere that existed in 2020 and 2021,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak + Co.
The Fed is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points on Wednesday. Traders are betting that the central bank will soon ease financial conditions after raising rates at the fastest pace in decades to combat inflation, and that it will “be a panacea for everything,” according to Shalett.
Yet, Wall Street analysts have been cutting profit estimates for tech companies amid slowing revenue growth as soaring demand for digital services and hardware at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic wanes. The fourth quarter is projected to see the biggest profit decline since 2016.
With reports in from more than a quarter of the companies in the S&P 500 Information Technology sector, most are faring better-than-expected on profits, but revenue misses have become more frequent.
About half of the 22 companies that have reported so far have beat revenue estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s below the roughly 60% of the sector that topped revenue projections last quarter.
Read more: Stocks Vigilantes Dial Back Punishment of Misses: Earnings Watch
The recent gains for tech stocks are a reversal from last year when the Nasdaq 100 dropped 33% in its worst decline in more than a decade. Despite the gains this month, the index is still down 27% from a November 2021 record.
Many of the biggest gainers so far this year were among 2022’s biggest losers. Tesla Inc., Nvidia Corp. and Netflix Inc., which all lost at least half of their value last year, have surged this month. So far, Tesla and Nvidia are up 44% and 39%, respectively, while Netflix has advanced 22%.
Miller Tabak’s Maley is skeptical that the rally can last if earnings disappointments keep piling up.
“There are few things that are more bullish than when the stock market reacts positively to a rash of negative news,” Maley said. “But in the end the fundamentals still matter.”
--With assistance from Elena Popina.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.