March was a rough month for tech stocks. Slumping shares for a variety of companies and a disappointing IPO for a mobile game maker indicate that 2014 won’t be the raging bull market for Silicon Valley that 2013 was.
An analysis of several high-profile tech firms indicates that many of them—particularly Internet companies—suffered significant losses in stock price last month. Facebook shares dipped 10 percent from the opening of markets on March 3 to the closing bell on March 31. LinkedIn fell about 8 percent, as did Google. Twitter dipped 13 percent, Yahoo fell nearly 7 percent and Amazon fell 6 percent. Netflix led (or trailed) the pack by tumbling more than 20 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were both essentially flat over the same time period.
There are a myriad of reasons tech stocks are currently suffering. Facebook’s big-ticket buys of WhatsApp and especially virtual reality company Oculus VR have left investors scratching their heads on how the social network will monetize its new platforms. Slowing user growth at Twitter has extinguished the excitement that surrounded the company’s IPO. Netflix is in a fight with Internet providers over who should pay to deliver its content into people’s homes and may see its business threatened by larger competitors like Apple. These concerns have caused investors to ease off the gas pedal on three stocks that rose 99 percent, 145 percent and 287 percent in 2013, respectively.
Pat Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights and Strategy, says many investors who scored big on the 2013 rallies for Netflix and others have decided now is the time to cash out. But the current sell-off isn’t likely to reach the calamitous levels of the dot-com crash of 2000. “It’s really about profit-taking,” he says. “I don’t think we have hit the peak of a bubble per se.”
Still, the Wall Street enthusiasm that has blanketed all things tech for the last several months is ebbing. Last week King Digital, the maker of the incredibly popular and profitable mobile game Candy Crush Saga, had its much-hyped IPO. The offering was a dud, with the company’s stock price declining 16 percent in its first day. It will be up to the Chinese social media company Weibo, cloud storage platform Box and Chinese Internet giant box to prove that tech IPOs can still pack a punch when they all go public later this year.
Though Internet firms are struggling, the old vanguards of the sector (especially the enterprise giants) have not been affected by the recent downturn. IBM shares were up 5 percent for the month, while Apple inched up more than 2 percent. Oracle and Intel also posted small gains. Microsoft stock hit a 14-year-high in mid-March as investors warmed to new CEO Satya Nadella and the news that the company would finally bring its Office software suite to the iPad.
Moorhead says the dip in tech stocks could indicate that web and mobile-focused companies are already behind the curve in terms of capitalizing on the next wave of growth in the sector. “We are in that transition where investments are moving from mobility stocks to 'Internet of Things' stocks,” he says. “Anything related to the Internet of things or big data and how to capture that will be hot.”