Lofty tech stocks nowadays don’t carry the same risk that fueled the late 1990s dot-com bubble: BlackRock


Technology stocks in the U.S., with generally higher valuations compared with the broader market, are fairly priced in the current environment, Richard Turnill, global chief investment strategist at BlackRock, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“When we talk about this market trapped in a range … and then you look at share prices of many tech companies where they are straightforward from bottom left to top right on the chart, that’s the one area that multiples have been increasing,” Turnill said on “Squawk Box.”

As of last week, the S&P information technology sector was trading at a price-earnings ratio, or multiple, of 18.7, according to Yardeni Research calculations. The S&P 500 was trading at 16.7 times.

The valuation of the tech sector is fair right now. Given what’s very different in this cycle, to say the ’90s, is that earnings are coming through,” Turnill said. “You’re seeing companies with strong balances sheets which have proved to be resilient to higher interest rates and earnings growth which hasn’t blinked, earnings growth that’s continued to rise.”

Looking ahead, however, tech stocks may see “more muted returns” with only half of the price-earnings equation firing, Turnill said. “It’s the earnings growth that will drive those returns … rather than multiples getting higher and higher.”

The Nasdaq, which is loaded with tech stocks, closed at a record high last Wednesday. But since then, as of Monday’s close, the index lost 3.2 percent in a three-session slide, sinking more than 2 percent alone on Monday.

As for the overall stock market, uncertainty is the reason it’s been stuck recently, said Turnill of BlackRock, the world’s biggest investment firm with more than $6 trillion in assets under management.

There’s been strong earnings and solid U.S. economic data, but the market has been reluctant to put a value on them, he contended, due to risks including President Donald Trump’s trade and fiscal policies and fluctuating oil prices.

The market seems to be OK with the Federal Reserve’s path of gradual interest rate increases, Turnill said. But if the Fed were to ramp up rate hikes or the Chinese economy were to slow dramatically, those would put a drag on U.S. stocks, he added.

In Monday’s market rout, the S&P 500 fared somewhat better than the Nasdaq, dropping 1.37 percent. The S&P was more than 5 percent away from its last closing high on Jan. 26, which preceded sharp sell-offs in seven out of the next nine trading sessions.

Wall Street eventually bottomed out intraday on Feb. 9, briefly plunging in and out of 10 percent correction territory.

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