The biggest names in technology powered stock market gains and bouts of volatility in 2017, and the trend continued into 2018. The S&P Information Technology sector index posted a 13.19% total return from January through July 2018, compared with 6.47% for the broader S&P 500 index.1
Wall Street analysts and the business media often refer to well-known technology companies Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now officially Alphabet) collectively with the acronym FAANG. Others use FAAMG, which substitutes Microsoft for Netflix. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, respectively, are the four most valuable companies by market capitalization in the S&P 500 index; Alphabet is ranked eighth and ninth (based on two different share classes).2
These tech giants are household names because they already play a huge role in everyday life, but they are also bold innovators with lots of cash on hand. They aim to expand their influence further by developing new products (such as self-driving cars and virtual reality) and disrupting established industries.3
The problem with popularity
Many benchmark indexes are weighted by market capitalization (the value of a company's outstanding shares), which gives larger companies an outsized role in index performance. The same large-cap tech stocks dominate the index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track these indexes, and can also be found among the largest holdings of many actively managed funds.
Spreading investments among the 11 different sectors is a common way to diversify stock holdings. However, investors holding a mix of different funds for the sake of diversification could be surprised by the heavy concentration of popular technology stocks if they eventually fall out of favor and prices fall.
Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.
Tom Plumb, CEO of SVA Plumb Financial Notes: One may also find that within the industry sectors, companies may be affected differently by certain macro-economic factors and the largest capitalized companies may have all benefited, and subsequently, been exposed to the same risks. In other words, diversifying stocks or sectors may not diversify risk as much as one hopes.
Mind your sector exposure
Over time, a core portfolio of diversified equity funds can become over-weighted in a sector that has been outperforming the broader market. Some investors with large positions in technology stocks may not be aware of the concentration level in their portfolios. Others could be ignoring the risk, possibly because they are overly optimistic about the sector's future prospects.
Each business cycle is unique, which makes it difficult to predict which sectors stand to benefit in the months ahead. Although there's little you can do about the returns delivered by the financial markets, you can control the composition of your portfolio. For this reason, you may want to review the sector allocation and risk profile of your investment portfolio, if you have not done so lately.
All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve a higher return may involve greater risk. Sector funds tend to be more volatile than the market in general and may carry additional risks.
Mutual funds and ETFs are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
It is important to “look through” any ETF or mutual fund holdings to analyze total portfolio risk. SVA Plumb’s investment consultants can help review your portfolio.
1–2 S&P Dow Jones Indices, 2018
3 The Economist, June 2, 2018
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018