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Occupy Silicon Valley: The next populist movement may be aimed at tech wealth, report says

  • Technology stocks have surged while overall U.S. economic growth has stagnated.
  • Already giant tech stocks' market value tops the GDP of several major cities.
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Michael Hartnett said in a report that growing populism could call for wealth distribution of the sector.

Standout gains in large technology stocks like Amazon.com and Apple show just how much the sector is disconnected from the sluggish growth on the rest of Main Street, one notable strategist said in a report titled "Occupy Silicon Valley."

The tech stock rally "could ultimately lead to populist calls for redistribution of the increasingly concentrated wealth of Silicon Valley," Bank of America Merrill Lynch's chief investment strategist, Michael Hartnett, said in a report released Monday.

The report's title draws parallels to the 2011 "Occupy Wall Street" protest against the wealth of the largest U.S. financial institutions which arose out of the financial crisis. Today, more and more people feel left behind economically despite the massive expansion of global business, especially for digital technology firms, the report implies.

The sheer size of the tech sector already tops the gross domestic product of several U.S. metropolitan areas. Amazon.com's market value surpasses the GDP of Washington, D.C., Hartnett pointed out.

Google parent Alphabet and Apple also have a combined market capitalization of $1.45 trillion, greater than the combined $1.31 trillion market value of euro zone and Japanese financial stocks, Hartnett noted.

Big tech stocks have accounted for 40 percent of the S&P 500's run to record highs this year, according to Goldman Sachs. The index Monday was at 2,391, within 1 percent of its all-time high hit last Tuesday.

BofAML's Hartnett estimates if the S&P 500 hits 2,630, the ratio of global market cap to global GDP will exceed all-time highs hit in 1999 and 2007, both times just before major market collapses.

The disconnect between an S&P 500 led by technology and the global economy "is ultimately unsustainable," Hartnett said. Against the forces of economic nationalism, he recommends investing in resources, banks, the euro zone and gold.

US labor participation rate (left) versus historical and projected equal weighting of US bonds and stocks

Source: BofAML Global Investment Strategy

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