WisdomTree Minds on the Markets
Minds on the Markets
Minds on the Markets
ARCHIVE: March 6, 2023
The Market Is Still Remarkably Tech-Heavy
A quarter century is a long time. Memories fade, history gets rewritten. Many market seers have come to view the stock market’s legendary run in the late 1990s as Tech-specific, or at least TMT-specific, the era’s jargon for “Tech, Media and Telecom” story stocks. Largely forgotten are the legendary 1990s runs by the likes of General Electric, Pfizer, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, all of which created stock market riches. Instead, storytellers harken back to AOL, Yahoo, Lucent and a couple dozen other New Economy stocks.
Back then, the S&P 500 Information Technology sector became so sizeable that it encompassed 17.7% of the FTSE All-World Index’s market capitalization. It’s remarkable to consider the difficulty of getting to such a high proportion when it wasn’t exactly a sob story in GE, Coke and many others.
Tech’s 2000–2002 hangover is perhaps just as legendary as the bubble. The bursting Tech party brought its proportion of the global basket to the mid-single digits as the 2000s rolled along. Thereafter, the sector ran virtually unabated from the Global Financial Crisis until about a year ago, achieving weights in the global total that were reminiscent of the 1990s glory days. Before the bears rolled into town in 2022, the figure was back up to 16.8%.
Or was it?
Let us diverge for a second to discuss the “anti-Tech,” Financials and real estate. Trust us, this diversion is critical.
Years ago, General Growth Properties was a big dog, one of the few real estate plays inside the S&P 500. The Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s had a problem: Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) were coming into being, but the companies had to be categorized into one of ten sectors. Which one? Best guess: Financials. It wasn’t a big deal because REITs were such a small part of the stock market. But that situation changed with time. By 2016, 25 companies in the S&P 500 were REITs.
S&P had to do something. That’s when they carved out an eleventh sector: real estate.
The Tech sector had a similar problem. It used to be pretty easy to define it: if you were in hardware or software, you were a Tech stock. Then one day, a kid at Harvard invented something new: “FaceMash,” which later became Facebook. Thereafter, along came Twitter and the rest. All tech stocks, all with big market caps by 2018.
Tallying it up in 2018, U.S. Tech’s weight in the global basket was at 1999 levels. Then, wham. In September 2018, S&P’s Index Committee went for another carve-out, just like it did two years prior with the REITs. The two big giants, Google and Facebook, got lifted out of Information Technology and plunked into “Communications Services” with the phone companies. Along for the ride were the video game purveyors, too, so Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard were put in the new sector too. IAC Interactive, which these days operates companies like Care.com and the Yelp-like ANGI (formerly Angie’s List), got moved too. Was eBay a tech company? In 1999, absolutely. But in 2018, apparently not.
The result: U.S. tech today, as currently categorized by S&P, is 15.4% of the global stock market basket, a couple points lower than the 17.7% all-time high. The problem is apparent: ask a person on the Street to name a “Tech stock,” and they may just say Google, which we now call Alphabet. Classify all of the above companies as “Tech,” and we aren’t a tad below the Tech-bubble highs; we’re above them.
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