"I do worry a little bit that we're beginning to hear things that are reminiscent of the 1999-2000 period—the number of hits, the number of eyeballs," says UBS' Art Cashin, suggesting a new tech bubble is afoot.
Cashin doesn't claim all tech names are taking part - many large-caps still go for less than 15x trailing EPS and 3x sales - just some of those with strong cloud and/or mobile exposure. "We're beginning to see a case of old tech/new tech."
Though using P/Es to value growth-stage tech firms can be tricky, given how near-term earnings are often depressed by big investments, a look at price/sales multiples makes it clear valuations for many high-growth names have soared.
Facebook (FB), LinkedIn (LNKD), Zillow (Z) and YELP now respectively trade at 13.4x, 13.1x, 10.9x, and 14.8x 2014E sales. The story is similar for some enterprise-focused names: Workday (WDAY) and Splunk (SPLK) go for 20.7x and 17.3x FY15E (ends Jan. '15) sales, and ServiceNow (NOW), Tableau (DATA), and FireEye (FEYE) go for 11.9x, 14.4x, and 21.4x 2014E sales.
Price/billings ratios for enterprise firms that depend heavily on cloud subscriptions are a bit lower than price/sales ratios, but are still often in the double-digit range.