How tech stocks can overcome inflation
Portfolio Managers, Denny Fish and Jonathan Cofsky, say that while high inflation and rising rates have been a challenge for the tech sector, the environment could drive demand for productivity-improving tech applications – adding to the sector’s long-term growth potential.
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- Rising interest rates and multidecade-high inflation have weighed on the stocks of tech companies whose cash flows often materialize further out in the future.
- But demand for the sector’s mega themes, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, is not diminishing in the global economy.
- In fact, these applications can be productivity-enhancing, which could add to their appeal in an inflationary environment.
Denny Fish: So, I think what’s really important to recognize is we have been in an inflation period for some time now. We’re going to be in an inflationary period for some time going forward, and it’s a question of what the duration of that is.
But what we can hang our hat on is if we go back over the last 20 years, technology has grown faster than the global economy. It’s grown multiples of the global economy, and that’s the reason technology has built some of the greatest businesses on the planet. We see as much optimism over the next 10 years as we’ve had in the past 20. And in some ways, like thinking about artificial intelligence and Internet of Things and the metaverse and all these things that are new and interesting, reminds us a lot of the early days of the Internet in the early 2000s. There’s just like so much that’s going on, and that’s just in aggregate going to grow. It’s going to be pervasive across every industry, and it’s going to grow faster than the global economy. The question is, what is the backdrop that we’re in? We’re in a very difficult backdrop for tech stocks right now.
Jonathan Cofsky: Neither of us were investing the last time inflation was running this high, but it’s important to go back in history. And when inflation was that high decades ago, the tech industry was very different. It was completely hardware focused. A lot of it was commodity-type hardware, so there wasn’t a lot of value-add or software in it. And when you think about what should do well or poorly in a high-inflationary environment, things with a wider asset footprint and more intellectual property, more potential pricing power should do better over a long period of time. And the components of the tech sector now are just different than it was 30, 40 years ago.
Fish: It totally is. And what’s important about that is right now, we have this factor dynamic going on and that is, rates going up, so growth assets, in general, just come down. But if you actually peel back the onion a little bit – software is a really good example. If you’re experiencing a lot of inflation, if you’re experiencing wage inflation, software’s productivity-enhancing. And so, that means you’re going to be more inclined to deploy more aggressively to automate. And so, there are a lot of puts and takes that are really hard to kind of figure out how all this shakes out, but we sort of feel like you’ll look forward two or three years and the playbook after we get through this inflationary environment is still going to look pretty similar to the way tech investing has looked for the last 20 or 30 years.
Technology industries can be significantly affected by obsolescence of existing technology, short product cycles, falling prices and profits, competition from new market entrants, and general economic conditions. A concentrated investment in a single industry could be more volatile than the performance of less concentrated investments and the market as a whole.