Tech Sector Emerged as 2023’s First Half MVP

Review the latest Weekly Headings by CIO Larry Adam.

Key Takeaways

  • The tech sector was the MVP of the first half.
  • Tech is likely to maintain All-Star status in the second half.
  • Energy, financials, and health care are poised to rebound.

With the baseball season halfway completed, Seattle, Washington will host the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby next Monday and Tuesday, respectively. These events are put on to celebrate and acknowledge the best-performing players and home run hitters throughout the season to date. Personally, it has been an exciting season thus far, as my hometown Baltimore team surprisingly holds the fourth-best record in the league thus far. But much like baseball, it has also been an exciting year for the equity markets, as the S&P 500 is off to its second-best start to a year over the last 25 years. The Tech sector has been the clear ‘home run hitter’ and earned the ‘most valuable player’ award as it is the best performing sector year-to-date – up 43%. As we move into the second half of the year, we address whether Tech can continue its positive performance and which other sectors could step up to become second-half all-stars.

• Tech the clear first-half MVP | The performance by the Tech sector to date was one for the record books. The sector posted its best first half of a year on record and is outpacing the S&P 500 by the widest margin over a six-month basis since 1999. Like a batter hitting .400, it is unlikely to sustain this level of performance, but expect the Tech sector to remain an all-star for four reasons:

    • Not as expensive as it appears – After the ~30% decline last year, Tech remains ~1% off its all-time high set at the end of 2021. But with its earnings having increased ~5% over that time period, it has become more attractive on a PE basis. While the sector trades at a 42% premium to the S&P 500 on a next 12-month basis – the highest of any sector – it has beaten its earnings estimates by the largest amount in aggregate over the last ten years, making it less expensive than current estimates suggest.
    • High-margin businesses – After a dismal 2022, many tech companies shifted their focus from hyper-growth to cost-cutting to maintain margins. This effort has paid off, as Tech maintains the strongest margins (24%) of any sector and far outpaces the S&P 500 (12%). As we enter a period where returns will be more challenging as we likely enter a mild recession in 4Q23, an emphasis on maintaining the bottom line will be a key focus for investors (something that tech companies have proven capable of doing).