UAE retail investors traded US technology stocks the most last year, despite Big Tech companies being hammered globally on excessive valuations and doubts over their earnings outlook, as they cut thousands of jobs amid monetary tightening by central banks and recession concerns.
“The best long-term performance has been found in the technology sector,” Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at the investment bank, said.
“In addition, many of the large technology companies are household names among consumers, making them more recognisable than some industrial companies.
“Many retail investors were still positive on the technology sector during 2022, with retail investors being net buyers of these stocks despite the declines.”
Technology and growth stocks led US equity markets for years following the 2008 global financial crisis, aided by near-zero interest rates.
However, they struggled along with broader markets last year, as the US Federal Reserve raised rates to fight surging inflation.
Global stocks recorded a $18 trillion rout last year. The Nasdaq 100 fell 33 per cent in 2022, while the S&P 500 lost 19.4 per cent.
Expensively valued technology stocks suffer more when interest rates rise. But other trends that supported technology’s advance in recent years may also go into reverse — economic recession risks affecting iPhone demand, while a slump in online advertising could hit Meta and Alphabet.
The top six stocks by market value in late 2021 — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta and Tesla — have seen their collective weight in the S&P 500 fall to 18 per cent from 25 per cent, according to Strategas Research Partners.
Fourth-quarter earnings in the tech sector are expected to have declined 9.1 per cent from a year ago, compared with a 2.8 per cent decline for S&P 500 earnings overall, according to Refinitiv IBES.
In Bloomberg’s annual survey of 134 fund managers last year, only about half the respondents said they would buy stocks in the technology sector — and even then, selectively.
Amid recent optimism that inflation has peaked — and that the Fed could soon start to change its tone — 71 per cent of respondents in the Bloomberg survey expect equities to rise in 2023, versus 19 per cent forecasting declines. For those seeing gains, the average response was a 10 per cent return.
Saxo Bank expects technology stocks to remain popular this year, especially if the Fed scales back its tight monetary policy at some point, according to Mr Garnry.
Similar to the most traded stocks in the GCC, Saxo Bank’s most traded stocks globally for 2022 also included Tesla, Apple and Meta.
“There has always been a noticeable comparison within the trade of tech stocks versus other assets,” said Damian Hitchen, Saxo Bank's chief executive for the Mena region.
“There is no surprise there as growth in technology is constant and consistent. Companies in all fields are always looking to increase their productivity with the help of technology.”
Regardless of the macroeconomic headwinds caused by Russia's war in Ukraine, the after-effects of Covid-19 and rising interest rates, the general population continue to find safety in tech shares, Saxo Bank said.
Top five most-traded shares by Saxo Bank’s UAE customers in 2022