Tech's Not-So 'High Flyers'

On a day that saw red across the major U.S. indices, none was harder hit than the Nasdaq and it's no surprise tech high-flyers were among the biggest causalities.


Equity analyst Scott Kessler of Standard & Poor's notes that when the greater market is down, it's not unreasonable for the Nasdaq to be down more, considering the stocks in the index have appreciated considerably since August 2010. "The bigger they come, the harder they fall," said Kessler.

Since August 2010: eBay is up more than 56 percent, Apple is up more than 29 percent, Yahoo is up more than 20 percent, Nvidia is up more than 153 percent, Rimm is up more than 18 percent. All of those stocks were lower Tuesday.

While it's easy to pin the downward movements on turmoil abroad, many market watchers attribute the declines more to profit-taking in these largely-held stocks, those in which positions can change quickly and with relative ease.

The Nasdaq 100 saw all of its components trade lower. Nvidia led the decline in the Nasdaq 100 down, falling 9.6 percent on the heels of a Barron's report indicating a glut of tablet computers could cause trouble for the chipmaker. Netflix closed down nearly 6 percent on news that content competitor will offer enhanced streaming video services to its prime members. Netflix has risen 70 percent in the last six months.

Tech darling Apple was also in the spotlight Tuesday, amid rumors of an iPad 2 delay. Rumor or not, Apple shares lost 3.4 percent.

While most analysts aren't connecting the moves in individual tech names to tensions abroad, Kessler does note "there is though, a fear of wildfire on a bigger picture level, where investors are concerned about the turmoil going on in the Middle East and Africa spreading to an economy like China."

That mindset, Kessler says, could be playing into investors' strategies as they sold Chinese tech stocks like Baidu and Shanda Interactive, both down sharply Tuesday.

"Look at the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM) today, down 3.3 percent...while this ETF doesn't have a heavy weighting in the countries making headlines today, the investing thought process remains: 'could the unrest spread to like economies?'" he said.

Canaccord Genuity's Richard Davis said when there are these types of disruptions in the macro environment, investors trade away from risk assets and that's tough on the Nasdaq names. "... Poof, you get 5 percent down moves on these stocks. " he said.

Davis says valuations have been pushed up to lofty levels, even with good earnings and strong prospects.

Some investors have been waiting for a correction of sorts in technology on the heels of a strong run-up in the sector. Davis counts himself among them but keeps the call in perspective, saying "maybe we'll get lucky and have a mini-correction...of course, every person who has called for a correction since this rally began in September has been right for precisely one day."