(Bloomberg) — In the stock market, what’s old is new again.
Tech stocks, last year’s undisputed champs, are back in favor — at least for a day — besting economically sensitive reflation trades yet again after the Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday it’s preparing to slow stimulus. A NYSE Fang Index of megacap tech players rose 1.8% Thursday, its best one-day performance since the start of June. Even a basket of profitless tech firms advanced, while the Russell 2000 growth index trumped a value gauge by the most in more than three months while Treasury yields fluctuated wildly.
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“The recent moves across the curve are being interpreted by some as a sign of declining growth prospects,” said Adam Phillips, managing director of portfolio strategy at EP Wealth Advisors. “And when the outlook for growth dims, investors gravitate back to growth-oriented stocks.”
The reordering in markets comes a day after Fed officials acknowledged the risks of inflation and said that they had begun a discussion about scaling back bond purchases. Policy makers’ dot plot showed they anticipate two rate increases by the end of 2023, which for some investors signaled a faster-than-expected pace of tightening. This marked a turning point in the Fed’s communication to global markets, which had so far been ultra-dovish.
Tech stocks, whose growth prospects got a boost during the pandemic, posted a monster run-up last year as people, holed up at home, scooped up products and became dependent on their services for their work-from-home setups. But that changed following vaccine breakthroughs in November, which boosted appetite for stocks poised to benefit from an economic reopening.
“After the first quarter and into the first couple of weeks of the second quarter, you really saw a strong reopening economically sensitive cyclical trade at the cost of the growth trade, the technology trade,” said Art Hogan, chief strategist at National Securities. “That rotation seems to have reversed again back into technology — the economically sensitive cyclicals, that trade probably got stretched — the industrials, materials, energy, financials got a bit stretched — because it was so popular.”
On Thursday, a Goldman Sachs basket tracking companies tied to the economic reopening fell more than 3% at one point, its worst day since mid-May. Banks and materials each fell more than 2%. Meanwhile, a basket tracking stay-at-home plays added roughly 1.6%.
Dennis DeBusschere, head of portfolio strategy at Evercore ISI, says it makes sense growth stocks would outperform Thursday after weekly jobless data came in weaker than expected. Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance rose slightly for the first time since late April, Labor Department data showed, and came in below estimates.
Given Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s focus on the labor market, misses in data will have an impact on inflation expectations. But, “the internals are the question, which will get back to labor markets coming in as hot as Powell expects,” DeBusschere said. “If that happens and we have a hike two years from now, the yield curve steepens and cyclicals do well. If not, growth does well.
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