Time for Tech? Yes!

What a week, eh? Not only were the markets thrust into chaos but also tech stocks were, on the whole, obliterated:

Company

One-Week Return

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)

(12.4%)

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

(11.3%)

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM)

(9.8%)

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)

(6.1%)

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

(5.4%)

Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM)

(4.9%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Cisco could be to blame. Although the networking specialist reported excellent revenue and earnings, management said that U.S. businesses could be on the verge of cutting back on tech spending. Uh-oh.

No question, that's pretty bad news. But was it enough to merit the sectorwide sell-off we saw last week? I'm not so sure. Let's look at those six stocks once more. This time, we'll factor in their expected growth:

Company

2008 PEG

Cisco

1.18

Oracle

1.05

Research In Motion

1.09

Google

0.97

Intel

0.98

Akamai

0.87

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Now, according to these quick-and-dirty PEG ratio numbers, what if I told you that every one of those stocks is cheaper than stalwarts General Electric and ExxonMobil?

It's true. Exxon's 2008 PEG is a stratospheric 2.61. GE is more reasonably priced at 1.45, but still well above the techies. Only Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) -- a favorite of many cheapskate investors -- is within spitting distance of Silicon Valley's best with a 1.01 PEG.

Did you call tech stocks a value?
Yes, I did. History proves that the best value stocks are often thought to be high priced. But, as is often the case, here "high priced" is a relative term that investors frequently misunderstand -- especially when it comes to firms breaking new ground, as Rule Breakers pick Akamai has.

For those with the guts to buy, that's an opportunity to seize. Fortunately, many do.

A September survey by Russell Investment Group of 340 investment managers found that a whopping 73% of these pro stock pickers are bullish on tech -- an all-time high. Cheap valuations will do that.

But so will a deeper understanding of these firms, which are responsible for the greatest business enabler in the history of the world -- the Internet. Here's a short course in the natural advantages many of these firms possess:

1. Once you're in, you're in. Tech firms tend to operate on long-term contracts. Think of Oracle. The database specialist requires its customers to sign up for multiyear maintenance deals after installing its software. That way, it's guaranteed a rich stream of predictable, high-margin revenue, much of which becomes free cash flow.

2. All business is e-business. Name a company. Who's that again? Oh, yeah, I know them. They've got a database. And a few hundreds PCs. And a few servers to feed those PCs and two dozen internal and external websites. File cabinets? Nah, they trashed those years ago.

3. A better balance sheet. By virtue of their innovative streak, tech firms are more likely to realize higher margins and, thereby, greater cash flow than your average retailer or manufacturer. So much cash flow, in fact, that they can't ever seem to spend it all. Seriously. Ask CEO Eric Schmidt what his plans are for Google's 14 billion war chest.

Grab a cart -- we're going shopping
See my point? Tech is timeless because all business, in every sector, depends on it. Software, hardware, chips, Web -- they're all essential elements of a global economy that's hitchhiking on the digital highway, with no intention of turning back.

And now, thanks to Mr. Market's unstable personality, they've suddenly gone cheap. How lucky is that? Very, I'd say. See you at the bargain rack.

Tim Beyers is a regular contributor to Fool.com and the Fool's market-beating Rule Breakers growth stock service. More than a dozen of the team's picks have at least doubled. Intrigued? Accept a 30-day free pass to Rule Breakers. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Tim owned shares of Akamai and Oracle at the time of publication. Find his complete portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here. Intel and Wal-Mart are Inside Value picks. Akamai is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel with a cause.


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