Central-bank monetary tightening rattles tech stocks

Central banks are turning more hawkish on raising interest rates - and tech stocks don't like it.

Global markets caught a bad case of the January blues. America’s S&P 500 ended last month down more than 5%, its worst monthly performance since March 2020 and its worst start to a year since 2009. Big tech firms led the rout, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite falling almost 9%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 6.2%. The pan-European Stoxx 600 retreated 3.9% in January for its worst month since October 2020. The FTSE 100 ended the month up 1.1%, but the more domestically focused FTSE 250 finished down 6.6%. 

The key theme so far this year has been “the hawkish pivot by multiple central banks”, say Henry Allen and Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank. On 31 December, interest-rate markets were pricing in about three increases by the US Federal Reserve this year. By the end of January, that number had risen to almost five. Money looks set to get tighter “much earlier than anticipated”. 

That’s a headwind for fast-growing technology stocks in particular, says Patrick Hosking in The Times. Many investors are betting that firms with “innovative intellectual property” or dominant market positions but few or no profits so far can reap big rewards in the future. But higher interest rates make “expected profits in five, ten or fifteen years look dramatically less appealing than hard profits today”. With rates “so close to zero”, even “modest rises” have a huge impact. 

This month’s market “spasms” show that investors are having a difficult time coming “to terms with the end of the era of free money”, says The Economist. Some thought it would “pretty much last forever”. Hence corporations and housebuyers binged on debt during the pandemic, while government borrowing soared. We are about to find out just how vulnerable the world economy is to higher debt servicing costs.

Recommended

Delivering profits : should you buy Royal Mail shares?
Share tips

Delivering profits : should you buy Royal Mail shares?

The volume of parcels delivered by Royal Mail soared during the pandemic, and so did its profits. But it has been coming under pressure lately. So, as…
19 May 2022
Avoid easyJet shares – there are better airlines to invest in
Share tips

Avoid easyJet shares – there are better airlines to invest in

EasyJet used to be one of Europe’s most impressive airlines. But now it is facing challenges on all fronts and losing out to the competition. Rupert …
19 May 2022
Despite the crypto crash, bitcoin still has a bright future
Bitcoin & crypto

Despite the crypto crash, bitcoin still has a bright future

Cryptocurrencies have crashed hard, with bitcoin down by more than 50% from its peak. But, says Dominic Frisby, bitcoin still has a future – it is the…
19 May 2022
Do Kwon: the King of Crypto Lunatics
People

Do Kwon: the King of Crypto Lunatics

Cryptocurrency entrepreneur Do Kwon liked to ruffle feathers and stir things up in his industry. But the collapse of his empire has left investors des…
19 May 2022

Most Popular

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall
UK Economy

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall

Despite the fuss about rising interest rates, they’re falling in real terms. That will blow up a wild bubble, says Matthew Lynn.
15 May 2022
Is the oil market heading for a supply glut?
Oil

Is the oil market heading for a supply glut?

Many people assume that the high oil price is here to stay – and could well go higher. But we’ve been here before, says Max King. History suggests tha…
16 May 2022
Value is starting to emerge in the markets
Investment strategy

Value is starting to emerge in the markets

If you are looking for long-term value in the markets, some is beginning to emerge, says Merryn Somerset Webb. Indeed, you may soon be able to buy tra…
16 May 2022