The Stock Market’s Magnificent Seven Is Now the Fab Four - Kanebridge News
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The Stock Market’s Magnificent Seven Is Now the Fab Four

It is a bullish signal that the market is rallying without the likes of Apple and Tesla, some investors say

By HARDIKA SINGH
Tue, Apr 2, 2024 11:42amGrey Clock 4 min

The Magnificent Seven trade is beginning to fizzle—and yet, the stock market is still heading higher.

The S&P 500 climbed 10% in the first quarter, its best start to a year since 2019 , even though two of its biggest constituents suffered double-digit declines. Apple shares fell 11% in the first three months of the year, while Tesla dropped almost 30%. Alphabet shares sputtered for much of the period before making a run in the past three weeks and ending up 8%.

The other four big tech stocks in the group known as the Magnificent Seven— Nvidia , Meta Platforms , Microsoft , Amazon.com —continued their meteoric run and outpaced the broader market. Some market strategists have dubbed them the new Fab Four.

Some investors say it is a bullish signal that the market is still rallying without the likes of Apple and Tesla because it means other groups are taking part . All of the S&P 500’s sectors, except real estate, logged gains in the first quarter. Small caps, industrial and financial-services stocks are among those that jumped, fueling bets that the broader market might have more room to run.

Much of the enthusiasm is tied to hopes that the economy has escaped a deep recession and that the Federal Reserve will soon pivot to cutting interest rates , even if not at the pace some investors had previously hoped. A frenzy over the future of artificial intelligence has added to the zeal.

“If you’d have told me eight weeks ago that Apple and Tesla would be down as much as they are, oh and by the way, you’re punting when you’re going to do the rate cuts and you’re getting less rate cuts, I would have assumed the market would be down,” said Ryan Detrick , chief market strategist at Carson Group.

To be sure, some investors worry the divergence in the big tech stocks is a sign of exhaustion in the rally and question whether future gains will be harder to achieve from here. The S&P 500’s market value has swelled more than $9 trillion since late October, and the index has set 22 record closes in 2024.

In the coming days, investors trying to gauge the trajectory of the market and economy will parse the release of U.S. manufacturing data Monday and the monthly jobs report Friday.

Nvidia continues to be a stock-market star. The graphics-chip maker has indicated demand for the computing power that underlies AI remains astronomical . Its shares have jumped more than 80% to start the year, after more than tripling in 2023.

By some metrics, Nvidia has displaced Tesla as the most popular stock among individual investors . It is currently the biggest average holding in individual investors’ portfolios, at about 9%, VandaTrack data show.

Meta shares, meanwhile, have soared partly thanks to Meta’s investments in artificial intelligence that have made targeted ads smarter. The social-media company recently said it would pay its first shareholder dividend. Microsoft stole the crown of biggest U.S. company from Apple earlier this year, with a valuation that topped $3 trillion, and Amazon has sharply improved its profitability.

Despite their recent gains, some of the stocks look less pricey than they did last year. Nvidia is trading at 35 times its projected earnings over the next 12 months, below its peak of 62 in May of last year. Amazon’s multiple is 40, down from 2023’s high of 62. The S&P 500 is trading at 21 times future earnings, slightly up from last year’s highs of 19.

The Fab Four are responsible for nearly half of the S&P 500’s first-quarter advance, according to Howard Silverblatt , senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Joseph Ferrara , investment strategist at Gateway Investment Advisers, said he expects investors to rotate out of big tech stocks and funnel into other sectors as the year progresses. That is largely because the earnings of the other 493 companies in the index are expected to outperform those of the Magnificent Seven by the fourth quarter.

“The fact that the market is still holding these levels and trading up without that full force of the Magnificent Seven is actually a really positive thing,” he said.

Jonathan Golub , a strategist at UBS, said one reason Magnificent Seven’s earnings dominance could end is because it will be hard to top the explosive growth they posted at the end of last year. Those results looked like blockbuster beats when compared with 2022’s weaker numbers, he said in a recent research note.

Last year, any hint of weakness in the Magnificent Seven would have sent the broader market tumbling. In fact, for much of the year, those seven stocks were responsible for all of the S&P 500’s advance.

This year is a different story. Tesla is struggling on numerous fronts . The electric-vehicle maker is facing pressure from Chinese competitors, which have rapidly expanded their presence around the globe in recent years. It has also warned of notably slower growth in 2024, and its profit margins have taken a hit.

Apple’s woes have been mounting, too . The Justice Department recently sued the company, accusing it of monopolistic behaviour. European authorities are cracking down on its app store. Plus, it is facing another weak iPhone demand cycle, and investors are worried that Apple is behind in the current wave of excitement around AI.

Bespoke Investment Group data show Apple shares underperformed the S&P 500 over the 200 days through Tuesday by the widest margin since October 2013.



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The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.