A major sell-off in Facebook Inc. (FB) shares this week is just part of a larger global backlash against tech stocks that threatens to hurt the broader market, according to one bear on the Street. (See also: Why You Should Buy Apple, Dump Amazon and Facebook.)
“The bubble you didn’t know about could be bursting without you knowing,” wrote Nomura currency strategist Bilal Hafeez in a note Tuesday. He warned that a handful of factors, from populism to heightened government regulation, could beat down tech stocks at a time when their valuations have been inflated to extreme levels. The downfall of some of America's largest tech titans poses a threat not only to the broader equity market, but could also weigh on some currencies while boosting haven assets like the Japanese yen, according to the Nomura analyst.
Hafeez highlights four forces coming together to burst the "data/platform bubble," including the discussion of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain going mainstream, “a classic sign of the late stages of a boom.” Other headwinds include the continuing tenure of President Donald Trump, who he suggests favors sectors such as manufacturing over Silicon Valley, where he has quickly made foes.
A Shift to 'Reputation-Based' Information
He sees the third negative headwind facing tech as the growing public scrutiny of the spread and use of information on social platforms such as Facebook and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google. On Monday, Facebook stock suffered its worst day in four years as news broke of a data scandal in which the data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica allegedly worked with the Trump campaign, sharing data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent.
"For individuals, this could be resulting in a shift from 'crowd-sourced' information to 'reputation-based' information and opinion," wrote the Nomura FX expert. "For governments, this could result in greater regulation on how and where the data/platform companies can operate."
Lastly, Hafeez sees downside in government regulation, including a larger push to regionalize standards in data collection and distribution, rather than globalize them. U.S. tech giants have the most to lose in China, where the country has increasingly tried to reign in control of its data, and in the European Union, which is pushing for more consumer privacy rights, wrote the analyst. (See also: Facebook Valuation Plunges to Lowest Since IPO.)