Tech funds: Cathie Wood can’t fight the Fed
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Cathie Wood became one of the best-known fund managers on Wall Street thanks to her boosterism of the US tech sector. This year, her flagship Ark Innovation ETF is up 29 per cent, easily beating the S&P 500’s sub-8 per cent gain. Yet according to Morningstar, net outflows top $19mn. Punchy predictions have grown more difficult to sell as rates rise.
Created in late 2014, the Ark Innovation ETF aims to back disruptive innovation. The bolder the plan, the better. See Wood’s backing of Palantir, which wants to take “the whole market” in artificial intelligence. Palantir trades at 54 times forecast earnings. That is higher than most software-as-a-service peers.
But Wood’s forecasts remain dreamily far off. Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, trades at more than $26,000. Wood has claimed that by the end of the decade, it will hit $1mn. She says electric-car company Tesla, which has a $573bn market cap, could be a $6tn company in the next four years. True, demand for Tesla vehicles is rising. Elon Musk wants deliveries to jump from a record 1.3mn vehicles last year to 2mn this year. But Tesla is aiding demand by cutting prices, meaning the net income margin is forecast to drop.
More than a third of the fund is invested in five stocks, including Tesla, Zoom Video Communications and crypto platform Coinbase. Concentrated investment in large stocks explains why it tracks the wider tech sector’s market performance, from the record price highs of late 2021 to the subsequent valuation crash and then recovery in 2023.
The problem for the Ark Innovation ETF is that, as with the wider tech sector, its performance is closely tied to expectations of US interest rate rises. That undermines any reputation for picking stocks. Predictions that the Fed has stopped raising rates for now have renewed interest in tech stocks. Any hints of change will throw that recovery into reverse.
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