(Bloomberg) — Bulls betting that a revival of the reopening trade would keep the U.S. stock market afloat had to face a hard fact on Monday: The technology giants are hard to ignore.
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Yes, reopening helped energy shares rally as oil prices jumped to the highest since 2014. And yes, Covid treatment outlooks brightened after Israeli biotech company RedHill Biopharma Ltd. followed Merck & Co. in announcing promising data on an oral therapy.
But none of that seemed to matter once the tech megacaps buckled Monday, as a monthlong bruising quickly headed toward a 10% correction. The S&P 500 erased Friday’s bounce, sinking 1.3% to its lowest level since July and retreating below its 100-day average, a key support for the bull market that began in March 2020.
The revival of the reopening trade has done little to loosen the grip of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc., a cohort known as Faang. While the bloc’s 22% representation in the benchmark is down from last year, its influence on the S&P 500 remains greater than any comparable group of stocks since at least 1980, according to data compiled by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bloomberg.
Here’s just one example of how much tech drives the markets: If you exclude the Faang losses on Monday, the S&P 500’s drop would have been almost halved.
“The dominance of these technology companies is a double-edged sword,” said Adam Phillips, managing director of portfolio strategy at EP Wealth Advisors. “Throughout the pandemic, these stocks did most of the heavy lifting, but this group could become a drag on the market as leadership changes.”
Tech behemoths took a beating as 10-year Treasury yields briefly topped 1.5%, again putting pressure on richly valued stocks. Facebook tumbled more than 4% after a former product manager at the social-media company said it prioritizes profits over the well-being of its users. Amazon.com slipped for a sixth day, the longest stretch of losses since August 2019, and again turned negative for the year.
Taken together, the Faang cohort erased almost 3% of their combined market value, extending losses from a September peak to almost $1 trillion. Down 9.2% over the stretch, the group was on the brink of its second 10% correction in a year.
While tech’s hefty share and its appeal during the pandemic lockdowns helped underpin the S&P 500’s fastest recovery from a bear market in decades, its hegemony is now creating trouble since no other sector is big enough to offset its losses. The big five’s weight in the S&P 500 is almost double the next-largest industry, health care.
For stock pickers struggling to beat the market during the Faangs’ relentless ascent, the latest blow may be welcome news. Last week, when they trailed the S&P 500 by almost two percentage points, more than half of the actively managed mutual funds outperformed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on funds that are benchmarked to the index and have at least $1 billion in assets. That compared with a beat ratio of 36% in the past five years.
Underlying the Faangs’ recent weakness was growing worries that their superior earnings power will be jeopardized with the economic reopening breathing life into industries that had been beaten down during the pandemic. The potential of lost growth advantage is one reason why Morgan Stanley strategists including Mike Wilson advised investors to favor consumer staples and banks over tech stocks.
“The defensive stocks should hold up better as earnings revisions start to come under pressure from decelerating growth and higher costs, while financials can benefit from the higher interest rate environment,” Wilson wrote in a client note. “The risk to earnings may also be higher than average for some tech stocks levered to the work-from-home dynamic that is now fading.”
Analysts expect the big five’s growth edge relative to the market to narrow to 4 percentage points in the June-September period, down from 33 points last year, before disappearing completely in the next three quarters, data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence show.
The pressure from falling Faangs was more pronounced for the Nasdaq 100, where they make up two-fifths of the index. The tech-heavy measure dropped 2.2% Monday to the lowest level since June.
“It is a significant loss of momentum” driven by megacap technology stocks, Katie Stockton, founder and managing partner of Fairlead Strategies, said on Bloomberg TV. “While they pull back, it’s very difficult, of course, for the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq 100 to get out of its own way on the downside.”
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