Tech stocks have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Take Meta, which announced Wednesday it is laying off 13% of its staff, or more than 11,000 employees. The company’s stock is down about 70% in 2022 amid declining sales and profit and rising expenses.
And while Meta’s year may be exceptionally bad compared with some of its peers, other major tech stocks aren’t faring much better. Amazon, Microsoft, Google-parent Alphabet and Tesla are all down more than 30% through October of this year.
In fact, seven of the biggest names in tech have lost a combined $3 trillion in value this past year. That group consists of the five previously mentioned and Netflix and Apple.
Is it the dot-com bust all over again?
The dot-com bubble is the internet boom between 1995 and 2000, during which the tech-heavy NASDAQ index grew fivefold. But the subsequent crash sent the NASDAQ down nearly 80%, most tech stocks went bust, and it took the NASDAQ 15 years to reach its former height again.
“The dot-com bubble, it was all about the hype,” said Dan Ives, a managing director and senior equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Ives has been a tech analyst for decades and remembers the bubble being fueled by speculation about the internet and easy money. That is, until capital dried up. And while he draws some similarities between the dot-com bubble and the pandemic tech boom, like easy access to capital and hyped-up valuations, he said he views the two in completely different time periods.
“I think now, you’re clearly seeing a very difficult time for tech stocks,” he said. “But I think the fundamentals are just a total different place than they were going back to the dot-com bubble and burst.”
Not a bust, but a blip?
The tech industry is a different machine today, For one, big tech stocks now turn major profits, where in the ’90s, most activity was highly speculative. Also, these companies are way more ingrained in people’s everyday lives.
While the pandemic boom did bloat company valuations, Ives said it’s not by near as much as it was during the dot-com bubble. But that doesn’t mean these companies are immune to pain. And that’s evident in the large-scale layoffs facing the industry as companies scale back expenses.
“I think if you look at Silicon Valley in general, a lot of these companies were spending like 1980s rockstars, so you’re seeing that now start to come off pretty significantly for the first time in, call it 13 years,” Ives said.
As capital continues to dry up, Ives does predict a lot of consolidation happening in tech — especially in the e-commerce side — where big names with bigger cash flows gobble up weaker companies, which are increasingly on sale and struggling.
“I think it’s a white-knuckle period for tech investors,” Ives said. “We’re going through what’s really a Fed, macro-driven market. Tech investors have been caught in the middle, and many view it as: Is it a huge opportunity? Or is it a ’99-2000 situation?”
Some think it will take years for the tech sector to recover, but many analysts have next year circled on their calendar.
“I think, as we go into 2023, we’re going to look at ’22 more as just a brutal blip,” Ives said.