Seven top tech stocks to snap up now

Technology stocks have an important part to play in a portfolio, says professional stock picker Walter Price – such as these seven.

Each week, a professional investor tells us where he'd put his money. This week:Walter Price, co-manager, Allianz Technology Trust.

One of the most exciting things about the technology sector is that it is constantly creating new markets. This happens sporadically in retail, construction or oil and gas, but permanent ongoing disruption is unique to technology.

This is why technology has an important part to play in a portfolio. Investors could be forgiven for being nervy after a tough start to the year for markets, but they are still prone to treating technology as a cyclical sector. The reality is that, far from depending on growth in the wider economy (as cyclical companies do), technology is one of the few sectors grabbing a greater share of the global economy, accounting for ever more business and consumer spending.

The sector offers many different types of opportunity: online retailer Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) and social media giant Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) might fit the traditional view of a "growth" stock. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), on the other hand, could be seen as "value" firms. For these stocks, the drivers of growth extend far beyond the economic environment alone the ongoing shift towards cloud-based services for Microsoft, for example, or the product upgrade cycle for Apple.

As mentioned above, as new industries and innovations emerge, there is often significant value up for grabs. The persistent and evolving threat to data has made the cybersecurity sector attractive, for example.

Barely a week goes by without a major organisation experiencing some kind of data breach, with more than half of British companies suffering such a breach within the last two years. A recent IBM Security survey of 400 companies worldwide stated that the cost per data breach had risen by 29% since 2013 to $4m, while the number of incidents rose by 64%. There is a strong need for counter technology to challenge hackers and all the associated threats to business. This is the price of living in a connected world.

While the potential market could be worth $14bn-$15bn, getting access to it isn't easy. There are no major dominant players for Cisco, for example, security is only around 10% of its business. This is an area where medium-sized companies may prove very important.

Equally, it is unlikely to be an area where winners take it all; there are several companies that could grow rapidly. This provides an exciting opportunity for investors to take advantage of a truly non-cyclical sector. Current favourites include Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW), Proofpoint (Nasdaq: PFPT) and Sophos (LSE: SOPH), and there's room for other cloud-based security firms in this area.

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