Over the past two years, technology companies have enjoyed explosive growth as investors were upbeat about the prospects for the sector at a time when people relied on technology to stay connected while cooped up in their homes.
Internet firms like Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ:ZM) were among those to reap substantial gains from the tech boom during the pandemic. Zoom’s stock surged to a record $559 in October 2020 around the time that its platform’s usage became ubiquitous for people working at home and regular users that wanted to connect with friends and families.
The confidence in Zoom and other internet stocks like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) fueled a herd mentality that propelled the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index to an all-time high in November 2020.
But with concerns about high valuations and interest rate hikes that could lower companies’ future earnings, the Nasdaq has been on a freefall for about half a year now, retreating from its November peak of over 16,000 points to an over 18-month low of just under 12,000 points on Wednesday.
Pandemic favorites lose shine
Zoom, the poster child for 2020, is now trading at less than $90 from its October peak of $559. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), another pandemic favorite, has lost 62% over the past year and 69% year-to-date as of Wednesday, trading at less than $190 after touching an all-time high of $690.31 in October 2021.
The drop in Netflix’s shares comes as the company reported its first quarterly loss of subscribers in over a decade. It lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, which the company blamed on people sharing accounts, among other factors.
Billionaire investor Bill Ackman in April sold his entire stake in Netflix, taking $400 million in losses. His firm, Pershing Square Holdings, said that while Netflix’s business is fundamentally simple to understand, “we have lost confidence in our ability to predict the company’s future prospects with a sufficient degree of certainty.”
The appeal of tech stocks has dimmed in recent months mainly due to high valuation coupled with missed or slowing sales targets. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), in October 2021, missed the market’s revenue expectations due to the lingering global chip shortage that has been affecting its iPhone production.
Apple’s price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, a measure of whether it is over- or under-valued, surged to 35.45 at the end of 2020 before retreating to 28 in the first quarter of 2022. This means that investors are paying $28 for every $1 of the company’s earnings.
The iPhone maker’s current PE ratio, however, is still lower than that of its peers, including Netflix, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), whose P/E ratio’s are all above 50.
Most overvalued tech stock
Tesla’s stock price has jumped 26% over the past year, but down 40% year-to-date. Over a month ago, the carmaker joined a growing list of megacap companies to enact a stock split after its shares blew past $1,000 in October 2021. Stock splits make shares more attractive to retail investors but doesn’t change its PE ratio.
Many analysts say Tesla is the most overvalued tech and automotive stock in the market and even its own CEO Elon Musk shared the same view at one point, tweeting two years ago that the company’s stock price “is too high imo.” That tweet knocked 10.3% off Tesla’s stock price on May 1, 2020.
However, some still see the company’s current market value as reflective of Tesla’s potential to further expand its dominant position in the electric-vehicle market. In 2021, Tesla held a nearly 14% share of the global EV market, beating rivals Volkswagen, BYD (HKG:1211), General Motors (NYSE:GM) and BMW, among others.
A counter to the recent pessimism
While many financial watchers cast doubt on tech firms’ ability to meet sales targets and justify their high valuations, some say the recent tech sell-off is irrational while remaining upbeat about tech’s future performance especially in the area of new tech trends like big data and artificial intelligence.