A global backlash against tech companies is coming that will burst the ‘data/platform bubble’: Nomura

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A global backlash against technology stocks such as Facebook is coming, which could hurt the broader market, one strategist says.

“Four forces are coming together to potentially burst the data/platform bubble,” Bilal Hafeez, global head of G-10 FX strategy at Nomura, said in a Tuesday report. “The bubble you didn’t know about could be bursting without you knowing.”

First, discussion of technological terms such as “big data,” “artificial intelligence” and “blockchain” has gone mainstream, a classic sign of the late stages of a boom, Hafeez said.

Second, President Donald Trump is less friendly to Silicon Valley than his predecessor. Trump is also more focused on the manufacturing sector, partly due to the income inequalities generated by the growth of big data-related companies. “The thrust of US policy is therefore moving back towards tangible asset industries, such as manufacturing, and away from intangible asset industries, like data/platform companies,” Hafeez said.

Third, the public is increasingly questioning the accuracy of the data presented by social media and their use of that information.

Facebook shares steadied Wednesday after suffering their worst two-day drop since February 2016 following additional concerns about user privacy from a data scandal involving 50 million accounts.

“For individuals, this could be resulting in a shift from ‘crowd-sourced’ information to ‘reputation-based’ information and opinion,” Hafeez said. “For governments, this could result in greater regulation on how and where the data/platform companies can operate.”

Finally, Hafeez pointed out that major governments are moving to regionalize standards in data collection and distribution, rather than globalize.

China maintains tight control of its data, while the EU is increasingly pushing for consumer privacy rights, Hafeez pointed out. “That leaves the pioneering US companies with the most to lose as they have to retrench from these markets.”

The European Commission revealed plans Wednesday to tax companies where they generate business, a change that could substantially increase the burden for Amazon.com, Facebook and Google.

“The digital revolution has overturned our economies and also shaken profoundly the way businesses create value today,” Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s commissioner for taxation, said at a press conference on Wednesday, arguing that the current rules are outdated.

A fallout in technology stocks, dominated by giant data collectors such as Facebook and Google, would likely hit the overall market. Tech makes up a quarter of the S&P 500, the highest weighting since 2000, around the peak of the dot-com bubble, according to Bespoke. Stocks in the sector are also the most overvalued since 2009, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“The bottom line is that trade wars, populism, income inequality can be looked at in isolation, but together they all point to a reaction against the growth of fluid intangible-intensive industries such as the data/platform companies,” Nomura’s Hafeez said. “While the direct fall-out of this could be seen in equity markets, the currency markets could also be affected.”

But Hafeez has one trade he thinks will do well in this environment. “The most obvious currency to benefit from these dynamics would likely be the yen, which is not at the centre of the tri-polar data/platform world and typically performs well in a volatile world.”