What teenagers can teach you about prospects for the technology sector.
Speaker : Altaf Kassam
My daughter turned 13 last weekend entering the dark tunnel of teendom. Now this year's party was very different to 2020s. Her friends all joined her online in a video call. They navigated an online escape room and we all boogied afterwards to a shared streamed playlist, courtesy of DJ dad. Now, what didn't change though, was how much they enjoyed themselves. And I was really impressed by how unfazed they were by the change in approach. So what this brought home to me is not youthful resilience or
growth mindset or digital natives, but how patterns of consumption have changed and how they're not going to go back to the way they were. Now, this change in patterns of consumption is what's been driving the tech sector ever higher over the last 18 months or so.
And some have worried that that price rise has been driven almost entirely by multiple expansion and hasn't been backed up by earnings. What we have seen over the last few weeks though, is that earnings have started to back up about price movement, and it feels like they're reflecting this profound change in consumption that's going to be here to stay. So if we start with Facebook and Alphabet, for example, what they saw was massive increases of online advertising revenue, driven by retailers having to shift more of their business online, but also consumers becoming more and more confident in buying, not only services, but products as well online.
For Amazon and Netflix, for example, the huge increase in subscriber growth and in the amount they were able to charge subscribers, which came through margin power was driven by the investments they've made in costly content acquisition. So they were even able then to hint at share buyback, something which was unheard of before in the tech sector. So it does feel like earnings are coming through in big tech and they're reflecting these changing patterns of consumption. Now, some may worry that all of this will evaporate as pent up demand comes back as the vaccine beats the virus and locked down starts to ease. I don't think that will be the case. I think a good proportion of the business that has moved online will stay online.
I think that people will be more comfortable streaming and chilling at home than necessarily going out to cinemas. Although we still will see some brief relief rallies as we had at the start of November in old-school cyclical sectors, when there are brief moments of optimism that lockdowns are going to be fully lifted. But I think big tech is here to stay, I think these stocks and sectors are our best friends forever, not just a passing fad. Now some say, well, we've, binge-watched this series before. It ends with the dotcom bubble bursting and antitrust actions. What I would say is that Microsoft, the company which was in the eye of the storm back then actually then went on over the next 20 years after the dotcom bubble burst to handily outperform the S&P 500 and the tech sector by more than 2% per annum.
So I think as these trends are permanent and not temporary, they're going to have and continue to have the profound effects they've already had on the tech sector, not only, but by extension of the US market with its big tech representation and emerging markets as well, such as China, which have managed successfully to move from an export driven model to a more consumption oriented model. And they're also going to continue to underpin the divergence of growth versus value, especially with interest rates pinned lower for longer as we're hearing from central banks. So for me, the tech genie is not going to get back in the bottle. We may see some brief rotations or reversals, but nothing sustained just like my daughter isn't going to be 12 again.
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Exp. Date: 2/28/2022