US tech sector now decently undervalued
We examine how this sector handled the market turmoil and what to expect
Brian Colello: Looking at technology as of March 26, the U.S. Technology index over the past year is still up 11 per cent. Meanwhile, the equity market is down 6 per cent. If we look at both markets on a year-to-date basis, since Jan. 1, tech is down only 10 per cent, whereas the equity market is down 19 per cent, again as of March 26.
Looking at the media and tech stock, we think the median is 13 per cent undervalued on a price to fair value basis. Hardware stocks within technology are down 16 per cent, software is down 14 per cent, and semiconductors are 8 per cent below our fair value estimate, again, on a median basis. Now, a quarter ago, the median tech stock was 7 per cent overvalued, and we saw no attractive sectors within technology. So in our view, technology has shifted from being modestly overvalued to decently undervalued, especially for investors that have a long-term time horizon.
We like wide-moat names like Microsoft (MSFT), Salesforce (CRM), ServiceNow (NOW), and Tyler Technologies (TYL). All have wide moats. All have very sticky customer bases. And revenue is on a subscription basis and recurring, so there shouldn't be too many interruptions to existing users as they shift to working remotely, and a good portion of this revenue is on a deferred revenue basis, so there's good visibility. Cybersecurity is another area we like, names like Palo Alto Networks (PANW), Okta (OKTA), and CrowdStrike (CRWD). They also have recurring revenue similar to these software names, but also their security solutions are becoming more and more important as employees work remotely.
For earnings ahead, all eyes will naturally be on COVID-19 and the demand outlook for technology. Many companies have pulled guidance. Few have actually provided updated guidance into the June quarter. There's very little visibility as you can imagine. But looking at a company like Micron, which reported a couple of weeks ago, data center demand still appears to be strong, PC demand actually seems decent as people prepare to work remotely, and smartphone demand is a bit softer, but there's still anticipation of a bounceback later in the year.
Looking at the automotive sector, that's probably the one area of weakness within technology because a lot of sensors and semiconductors go in there. Car sales in the month of March in the U.S. were down over 30 per cent for firms like Toyota and Volkswagen, so we'll see how bad the headwinds are in the coming weeks for automotive chip demand and sensor demand.