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Why tech stocks tend to thrive in Q4

The fourth quarter is traditionally a good one for stocks, and an even better one for the technology sector.

Since 1990, the S&P 500 has climbed an average of 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

Among the 10 sectors within the broad gauge, however, technology tends to be the winner, with an average gain of 6.6 percent. The sector rose nearly 80 percent of the time.

So, what traditionally happens in Q4 when tech is down in Q3? After all, the sector declined 4.1 percent in this year's third quarter, its worst performance since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Since 1995, the technology sector has climbed an average of 4.6 percent, and risen 71 percent of the time—or five out of seven instances—according to Kensho, a data analytics platform for financial markets.

There are a number of reasons the tech sector typically marches higher in the final months of the year. For one, the category tends to lead in up markets. So, in Q4, tech benefits as money managers shift money to winners and away from laggards before year-end.

A second reason strategists mention: Budget flush. If companies haven't spent money on new technologies yet then they are likely to do so before the year comes to a close.

Finally, consumer technologies — all the latest and greatest smartphones, tablets and other gadgets — always come into focus during the holidays.

Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group recommends tech investors looking for growth stocks with attractive technical patterns consider three names right now: Facebook, Amazon and Palo Alto Networks.

Before committing capital, Stovall issues two caveats: One, history serves as guide, but never as gospel for investors.

And secondly, the sector is trading at 15.6 times 2015 earnings, or basically in line with the market. In other words, valuation is not especially compelling.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, parent of CNBC, is a minority investor in Kensho.