Tech stocks suffer first two-week losing streak since early May as Microsoft and Intel raise concerns

Key Points
  • Intel shares plunged 16% for the week after the chipmaker gave a weaker-than-expected forecast on product delays.
  • Microsoft reported better-than-expected quarterly results but provided guidance for the current period that trailed analysts' estimates. 
  • Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook are all set to report quarterly results next week.

In this article

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., gestures as he speaks during a Bloomberg event on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tech investors are getting a dose of reality after a historic run.

The Nasdaq, which gets about 40% of its value from just six technology stocks, just closed out its first two-week losing streak since the period ended May 1. The index dropped 1.3% in the past five trading days, led by a 16% plunge in Intel shares and a 5.6% decline in Tesla.

It's only a minor pullback given the Nasdaq's strength, especially in the face of a global pandemic and surging unemployment. The Nasdaq is up 16% for the year and remains only 3.8% off its all-time high. It's more than doubled over the past five years, outperforming the S&P 500's 55% gain.

Nasdaq vs. S&P 500

But the drop is notable because it was sparked by disappointing forecasts from Microsoft and Intel. Both companies provided better-than-expected results in the latest quarter but gave guidance for the current period that trailed analysts' estimates.

Tesla, whose shares are still up about 240% this year, dropped for the week even after the electric carmaker reported a fourth straight quarterly profit.

Driven in part by Tesla's massive rally, the Nasdaq recently reached its highest price-to-earnings ratio since 2005, according to FactSet. Meanwhile, initial jobless claims topped 1 million for an 18th straight week, and states are poised to stop paying out the $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit at the end of July. Coronavirus cases in a number of U.S. states continue to reach daily records.

"The market has entered more of a casino mentality than ever before," said Brian Yacktman, chief investment officer of YCG Investments, which oversees close to $1 billion in assets. "Anytime momentum is disrupted, it makes people start to question what they're buying and what they actually own."

Yacktman's investments include Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet, and he hasn't been selling those stakes despite the rally, because "they're just so difficult to disrupt and have such tremendous pricing power and volume growth opportunities in the face of Covid," he said.

He puts Tesla in a very different category and says that for stocks that are divorced from company fundamentals, "it's quite possible that gravity starts to kick back in."

'Priced to perfection'

The bigger question heading into next week is whether the specific issues raised by Microsoft and Intel spell trouble for other large tech companies. Facebook reports results on Wednesday, followed by Apple, Amazon and Google holding company Alphabet on Thursday.

In Microsoft's forecast, the company cited weakness in spending from small and medium-sized businesses and a slowdown in bookings at LinkedIn. Intel said its next-generation processors would come out later than expected.     

Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, told CNBC on Friday that tech stocks have been "priced to perfection" ahead of this reporting season.

"The earnings next week are going to be very important to see whether or not the market continues to punish them," Krosby said.

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