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Will Investors See a Tech Sector Market Top in 2022?

By Keithen Drury – Jan 11, 2022 at 6:15AM

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Last year featured excellent performances by some of the sector's leading names, which also happen to be among the biggest public U.S. companies.

The tech sector is extremely broad. It is filled with trillion-dollar behemoths like Microsoft (MSFT 1.63%), legacy providers like IBM (IBM 1.44%), and fast-growing upstarts like Crowdstrike (CRWD 4.28%). It spans hardware, software, cybersecurity, financial technology, and more.

As such, 2021 could have either been a rough ride or a massive success for tech stock investors, depending on which market corner they were focused on. But overall, the tech sector did well -- much like it had over the past decade. Will 2022 be the year where it runs out of steam?

Person participating in a video call while seated at a desk.

Image source: Getty Images.

Top-heavy dominance

The S&P 500 (SPY 1.31%) is market-cap weighted, so the largest companies by valuation have much greater impacts on the index's movement. Out of the top 10 companies in it, seven are tech players, and they make up around 25% of the entire index's value. As a group, those seven companies had a fairly remarkable 2021, though two did underperform the market.

AAPL Total Return Level Chart

Total Return Level data by YCharts

When 25% of the S&P 500 has a great year, it makes sense the entire index will follow. Should these companies falter, they will drag the market down with them. However, these seven companies have had the business growth to back up their share price gains.

AAPL Revenue (Quarterly YoY Growth) Chart

Revenue (Quarterly YoY Growth) data by YCharts

Each has been capturing the opportunity in front of it, and there is little reason to expect that will change significantly this year. If these seven continue succeeding, the tech sector as a whole will continue its success during 2022.

The high flyers

In contrast to the largest and most well-known tech companies, a cohort of high-growth, unprofitable tech businesses delivered terrible results for investors in 2021. Cathie Wood's ARKK Innovation ETF (ARKK 4.91%) invests in many of these stocks, and it fell by 23% over the last year. Valuations for companies such as Roku (ROKU 6.30%), Twilio (TWLO 4.89%), and MercadoLibre (MELI 3.92%) have cratered, and many of their tech brethren have fared poorly also.

TWLO PS Ratio Chart

PS Ratio data by YCharts

In many cases, their valuations have returned to pre-pandemic levels. This is because revenues are catching up to the price movement, normalizing the stocks' price-to-sales ratios.

Company Share Price as of the End of Q3 2020 Q3 2020 TTM Sales Q3 2020 P/S Ratio Current Share Price Q3 2021 TTM Sales Current P/S Ratio
Roku $188.80 $1.540 billion 15.17 $227.93 $2.549 billion 9.67
Twilio $247.09 $1.545 billion 22.39 $262.34 $2.547 billion 15.05
MercadoLibre $1,082.48 $3.320 billion 16.14 $1,129.69 $6.265 billion 8.62

Source: Macrotrends. Stock prices listed are as of Sept. 30, 2020, and Jan. 7, 2022. P/S = Price to sales. TTM = Trailing 12 months.

Now that their valuations have fallen, the stocks' movements should be more correlated to quarterly results. Because of this, I believe these high-growth stocks should see a solid year in 2022, as these companies' market opportunities haven't been fulfilled. However, with the Fed poised to begin increasing the benchmark fed funds interest rate from its current extremely low level, investor appetite for unprofitable companies is likely to begin deteriorating. Macroeconomic events may have a larger impact on these companies' stocks than their own results, further complicating their investment theses.

Are pandemic changes here to stay?

Many thought the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was over as 2020 drew to a close; 2021 proved that wrong. While nobody knows for sure what 2022 has in store, two years of remote work have changed how businesses operate. Spotify (SPOT 2.57%) and Twitter (TWTR) have decided to let employees work from home forever if they want to, while many others companies' management teams are taking a hybrid approach.

As such, digital collaboration tools have never been more important. Although the initial stock hype has worn off for Zoom Video (ZM 3.12%) and DocuSign (DOCU 2.74%), they have become ingrained in the workflows of vast numbers of organizations. As a result, businesses will likely continue their usage. Additionally, each has a knack for expanding customer spending.

Company Q3 Net Retention Rate
Zoom Video 130%-plus
DocuSign 121%

Source: Zoom Video and DocuSign

For every dollar the average customer spent in Q3 2020 with Zoom Video and DocuSign, they now spend at least 30 cents and 21 cents more, respectively. Companies that can drive growth because of how integral their products are to their clients' operations will not see a market top. Those that offer solutions that are not as necessary will struggle if businesses start calling everyone back into their offices.

Will the tech sector reach a top in 2022?

As the tailwinds toward a more digital society intensify, the companies providing these solutions will succeed. While there may be some struggles within the tech sector, overall, I expect it to continue growing into 2022 and beyond. Many individual stocks can be selected to play this sector in 2022, or an ETF approach can give an investor immediate diversification.

An unforeseen event -- such as the advent of the pandemic was in 2020 -- could derail any 2022 predictions. As a result, any stock picks made should be held for at least three years to ride out any market volatility. Tech has led the way for many years, and I see no reason to doubt that it will continue to.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Keithen Drury owns Alphabet (C shares), CrowdStrike Holdings, Inc., DocuSign, MercadoLibre, SPDR S&P 500, and Twilio. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, CrowdStrike Holdings, Inc., DocuSign, MercadoLibre, Meta Platforms, Inc., Microsoft, Nvidia, Roku, Spotify Technology, Twilio, Twitter, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon, and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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