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The U.S. has warned China that treaties and other global negotiations could be in danger if negotiations fail regarding their high-tech product international trade agreement. The agreement includes an annual $2T in trade, and eliminates tariffs and other trade barriers on IT products.
China has recently excluded approximately 60 new product categories, including medical devices and next-generation silicon chips, from the trade agreement. American authorities are looking to use this week’s annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue to update the 1996 Information Technology Agreement.
U.S. officials warn that if an agreement is not reached, increased opposition will be taken in Congress toward other trade deals with China.
"Price pressure based on increased competition, lack of product differentiation and the increased availability of viable alternative solutions has had a dampening effect on the short term IT spending outlook," says Gartner's Richard Gordon.
Gartner now expects global IT spending to rise only 2.1% in 2014 to $3.75B. That's down from a prior forecast for 3.2% growth, albeit still better than the flat growth seen in 2013. For now, Gartner expects growth to accelerate to 3.7% in 2015.
Device sales (inc. PCs, mobile devices, and printers) are only expected to grow 1.2% in 2014, as PC sales continue declining and ASP drops affect smartphone/tablet revenue.
Data center hardware sales are expected to rise 0.4%, and IT services 3.8%. The cannibalizing impact of public cloud services is expected to continue taking a toll on both markets (previous).
Enterprise software sales are expected to be relatively healthy, growing 6.9% to $321B. Within the market, demand for databases and other types of infrastructure software is expected to hold up better than application demand, which has been dinged by weak PC sales and cloud competition.
Whereas smartphone penetration in the 15 biggest developed markets was at 65% at the end of 2013, it was only 23% for the 15 biggest emerging markets, notes Mary Meeker in a mobile-centric 2014 Internet Trends Report.
Global smartphone penetration has reached 22%, well above 11% penetration for laptops and 10% penetration for desktops. Tablets are still only at 6%, and mobile phones in general at 73%. There were 2.61B global Web users at the end of 2013, and 1.79B smartphone subs.
Mobile made up 25% of Internet traffic as of May 2014, up from 15% a year ago and 10% two years ago. Asia and Africa are respectively at 37% and 38%. Mobile accounts for over 1/5 of online video time (favorable for YouTube).
Internet ad sales grew 16% last year to $116B. Google (GOOG) had a Q1 annualized ad ARPU of $45 (up $3 Y/Y), dwarfing Facebook's (FB) $7.24 (up $2.84), and Twitter's (TWTR) $3.55 (up $1.58). Mobile is estimated to account for 20% of media time spent, and just 4% of ad sales. For Internet, the figures are 25% and 22%.
Other details: 1) Tech firms account for 19% of the S&P 500's market cap - up from 11% 20 years ago, but well below a Dot.com bubble peak of 35%. 2) Web-connected TVs made up nearly 40% of 2013 shipments, up from <10% in 2010. 3) Facebook made up 21% of social media referral traffic in March (per Shareholic), and Twitter just 1%.
While broader equity markets are only seeing modest declines, tech stocks aren't so lucky. The Nasdaq-100 (QQQ -0.8%) had its lowest print since October this morning before recovering slightly.
Chinese tech stocks (KWEB -4.3%), including 2013 solar high-flyers (TAN -4.2%), are especially hard-hit following a Shanghai selloff triggered by PBOC withdrawals. Other Internet (PNQI -2.3%) and social media (SOCL -2%) stocks aren't faring much better.
Will earnings season come to the rescue? Intel and Yahoo report after the bell today, and Google and IBM after the bell tomorrow.
Only 5 of the 10 largest tech companies by market cap were on 2000's top-10 list, notes VC Matt McIlwain in a column highlighting the risks posed to tech investors betting heavily on IT giants.
McIlwain also observes 7 "big tech" names - IBM, H-P, EMC, Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, and Intel - have collectively seen nearly flat sales/profit growth over the last two years. Recent industry sales figures - PCs, servers, storage - help explain why.
He argues recent trends - the mobile transition, the rise of subscription-based cloud apps, the migration of workloads to cloud infrastructures - makes him "a doubter in aggregate future value creation for current Big Tech companies."
The business model changes caused by the cloud shift, and a general pickup in the pace of change, especially worry him. Sales policies need to be overhauled to deal with subscription pricing; traditional "account control" is undermined as decisions shift from CIOs to individual departments; and companies with tens of thousands of employees have a harder time quickly reacting to change than smaller firms.
Nasdaq-100 (QQQ) futures +0.9% AH after Microsoft handily beats FQ1 estimates on the back of solid enterprise software licensing growth and smaller-than-feared Windows declines, and Amazon beat Q3 revenue estimates while providing broad Q4 guidance ranges.
Intel (INTC) +1.4% in response to Microsoft's numbers.
"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.
A number of big cap tech companies have fooled this generation of analysts, says Jim Chanos (about minute 11 of the video), by acquiring their way into growth as organic expansion grinds to a halt. He won't name names (HPQ is already trodden ground), but Cory Johnson's mentioning of IBM and 3D Systems (DDD) as fitting the bill has Chanos nodding his head, "Acquisitions are a way of capitalizing R&D."
"I'm very leery of tech companies that become value stocks," he says, partly explaining the reason for exiting another long - his stake in Microsoft (MSFT). Apple (AAPL)? He considers it more a consumer products stock than tech stock, and believes the company is still innovating.
Techs outperform today with the Technology SPDR ETF (XLK +0.7%) rising to its best level in more than 12 years behind Carl Icahn's disclosure of a stake in Apple and his urging for another boost to the company's share repurchase plan.
The QQQ's are ahead 0.6% vs. a 0.35% gain for the S&P 500.
"Sell in May and go into cyclicals," says Ralph Acampora after the last month. He reminds of an old adage saying sectors going down the least during a selloff become the new market leaders. During SPY's 5.2% decline from May 22-June 6, the best performers were Tech (XLK) and Industrials (XLI). The worst were Telecommunications (IYZ) and Utilities (XLU). This "rolling rotation" between sectors is necessary, he says, to give further life to the secular bull market begun in March 2009.
On June 5th, UBS completed its shutdown of 7 ETNs - 5 of which were focused on the IT space. The ETNs had struggled since launch to gain assets. The affected notes: LSKY, EIPO, EIPL, SSDD, SSDL, PTD and BLND. The closure is interesting in that all the affected ETNs except BLND had double-digit positive returns over the recent trailing twelve months.
"Tech (XLK, QQQ) is where cash goes to die," says Bill Smead as research shows massively over-capitalized companies don't perform any better than undercapitalized ones. "There's not enough tension - you don't make very good decisions what to with cash when you've got too much of it - unless you're Warren Buffett." Example #1 is Microsoft (MSFT): "They've probably lost more money in the last 13 years in the online business than any single corporation ... in history."
Thomas Lee lifts his year-end S&P 500 (SPY) forecast to 1,715 from 1,580 as the bull has already outrun his expectations. His team sees clues economic performance is picking up, including the outperformance of semiconductors (XSD) vs. transports (IYT), and the steepening of the 10 year/30 year Treasury curve. Risk/reward is particularly appealing in tech (XLK), healthcare (XLV), and financials (XLF).
"Which has a higher P/E - Procter & Gamble (PG) or Google (GOOG)," asks the WSJ's Tom Lauricella. Enthusiasm for anything with yield has driven the P-E ratios of dividend payers (DVY) like P&G maybe way too high. Techs (XLK) with double-digit earnings growth, no debt, and massive cash balances trade at 12x, says MFS' James Swanson, while a utility (XLU) in Ohio is at 16x. "How far do you go with this game?" "Pretty far," says Templeton's Donald Taylor. "The macro environment (causing this) is not at all likely to change anytime soon."