The Tale Of Two Economies

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Includes: AAPL, AMZN, FB
by: The Mad Hedge Fund Trader

Summary

An old trading nostrum dictates that if you dump a stock and it fails to go down, you buy it with both hands.

Technology stock performance of late is a classic example of how well this works.

Following the Facebook hacking scandal in March, the company was back, trading at $195.

Call it lucky, call it fortuitous. All I know is that the harder I work, the luckier I get.

If you are in the right economy, that of the future, you are having another spectacular year. If you aren't, you are probably posting losses for 2018. Call it the "Tale of Two Economies."

I suspected that this was setting up over the past couple of weeks. No matter how much bad news and uncertainty dumped on these companies, the shares absolutely refused to go down. Instead, they flatlined just below their 2018 highs.

An old trading nostrum dictates that if you dump a stock and it fails to go down, you buy it with both hands. Technology stock performance of late is a classic example of how well this works.

When the Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) hacking scandal hit in March, investors were wringing their hands about the potential demise of Mark Zuckerberg's vaunted business model and the shares plunged to $150.

However, while analysts were making these dire predictions, I knew that Facebook itself was signing a long-term lease for a brand new 46-story skyscraper in downtown San Francisco just to house its Instagram operations.

Three months later and the company that misused Facebook's data, Steve Bannon's Cambridge Analytica, is bankrupt, and FB is trading at $195, a new high. Facebook was right, and the Cassandras were wrong.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) was given up for dead during the February meltdown as the shares withered from a daily onslaught of presidential attacks threatening antitrust action. Today, the shares are up a mind-blowing 63% from those lows.

And while Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) conducted its recent developers conference in San Francisco, its shares continued the relentless march toward the first-ever $1 trillion market cap. My $200 2018 forecast is suddenly looking pretty good.

It turns out that technology companies are immune from most of the negative developments that have caused the rest of the stock market to drag. I'll go through these one at a time.

Rising Interest Rates

Tech companies are sitting on gigantic cash mountains, some $270 billion in Apple's case, which means that as net lenders to the credit markets, they are beneficiaries of rising rates. This makes tech companies immune to the credit problems that will demolish old economy industries during the next rate spike.

Rising Oil Prices

While tech companies are prodigious consumers of electricity, many power these with massive solar arrays, and they sell periodic excess power to local utilities. So as net energy producers, they profit from rising energy prices.

Rising Inflation

Since the output of technology companies is entirely digital, they can handily increase productivity faster than the inflation rate, whatever it is. Traditional old economy companies, such as industrials and retailers, can't do this.

Remember that while analog production grows linearly, digital production grows exponentially, enabling tech companies to handily beat the inflation demon, leaving others behind in the dust.

Share Buybacks

While technology companies account for only 26% of the S&P 500 stock market capitalization, they generate 50% of the profits. Thanks to the massive tax breaks and low-tax repatriation of foreign profits enabled by the new tax bill, share buybacks are expected to rocket from $500 billion to $800 billion this year. Companies repurchasing their own shares have become the sole net buyers of equities in 2018.

And companies with the biggest profits buy back the most stock. This has created a virtuous cycle, whereby higher share prices generate more buybacks to create yet higher share prices. Old economy companies with lesser profits are buying back little, if any, of their own shares.

Of course, tech companies are not without their own challenges. For a start, they have each other to worry about. FANGs will simultaneously cooperate with each other in a dozen areas, while fighting tooth and nail and sue on a dozen others. It's like watching Silicon Valley's own version of HBO's Game of Thrones.

Also, occasionally the tech story becomes so obvious to the unwashed masses that it creates severe overbought conditions and temporary peaks, as we saw in January.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.