It has been a difficult quarter for many top momentum stocks like Slack (WORK), Veeva Systems (VEEV), Alteryx (AYX) and Zoom Communications (ZM). The companies have continued to execute well but their stock prices have declined. These companies reported better-than-expected third quarter earnings, impressive growth, and boosted their forward guidance.
In an analysis in MarketWatch this week, I reviewed why Momentum stocks are down and I look beyond the assumption it’s due to a “value rotation.” Instead, as I point out, there is a lot of volume that suggests institutional selling directly after earnings reports. This volume in momentum stocks exceeds what we saw during the Q4 sell-off.
Overview of Momentum Stocks Following Q3 Earnings:
Many YTD gains have been erased as investors rush to value stocks. Indeed, value stocks, as gauged by the iShares S&P 500 Value ETF (IVE) have started to outperform momentum stocks as gauged by the iShares Edge MSCI USA Momentum ETF (MTUM). While it is true that some investors have moved to value stocks like Caterpillar (CAT) and Target (TGT), the real concern is that many investors are rotating to cash.
In January this year, WSJ reported that investors were increasing their cash holdings at the fastest pace in a decade. In July this year, CNBC reported that the wealthy were moving to cash. Just recently, a report by DataTrek showed that this trend was continuing. The report found that there was $3.4 trillion in US money market fund in October 2. This was 14% higher than in January this year.
Narratives Driving the Momentum Market
A common narrative is that the best momentum stocks and companies are overvalued. When you look at price-to-sales and price-to-earnings, it is true they are at record highs. However, as I had pointed out in a separate analysis on MarketWatch, cloud software has also been reporting record high revenue growth. There is not a divergence between valuations and revenue that you typically see in bubbles; they’ve been aligned.
Most certainly, if the market decides to reward profitability over growth, we will see lower price-to-sales across cloud software.
Another narrative is that these companies will be affected by the soft spending on IT. In reality, IT spending in the United States and internationally has been increasing as evidenced by the increasing sales reported by AWS, Azure, and other IT-related companies (although percentages have declined due to the law of large numbers). A report by Gartner has said that IT spending will rebound by 3.7%, driven by increased spending in enterprise software spending. IDC has also forecasted that IT spending will continue to increase.
Alteryx: Momentum Stock
Many momentum companies have continued to see impressive growth. A good example of this is Alteryx (AYX), a company that offers data science solutions to companies. The company’s stock has declined by more than 21% in the past three months. Yet, Alteryx is a rare company. It is a fast-growing company, a market-leader, and one often has positive EPS.
Also Read : Alteryx Stock Price
In the most recent quarter, the company’s revenue grew by 90%. Net income grew to $16 million. The company also boosted its forward-guidance. It now expects to make between $389 million to $392 million this year. This is an annual growth rate of between 53% to 55%, but on the other hand, AYX management tends to be conservative.
In the above chart, the large volume spikes coupled with noticeable price movements suggests institutional positioning. We see sell-off volume (red spikes) is much higher over the last two months than during the Q4 selloff.
Alteryx’s shares were down in the days after the strong earnings report.
Roku (ROKU) is another company that saw some irrational sell-off. Revenue of $360 million rose by more than 50% and the company raised its outlook for the year. It expects its revenue to grow to about $1.106 billion, or 46% YoY. This is impressive growth for a company that has a strong runway for growth as I wrote before. Although Roku recovered, there was still high volume after the earnings report.
Also Read : Roku Q3 Earnings
The above chart also shows large volume, suggesting institutional positions. We see the sell-off volume is much higher than during the Q4 selloff.
Zoom Video (ZM) is another example. The company’s stock tanked and is now trading 30% below its all-time high. You would think that ZM had a very bad quarter. In reality, the company reported that revenue grew by 96% to $146 million. The company’s clients with at least 10 employees grew by 76%. Also, the company increased its Q3 guidance to between $155 million and $156 million.
I also covered Veeva in the MarketWatch analysis. Veeva Systems’ operating margins have expanded from 17% in 2016 to 27% in the most recent quarter. Veeva beat on earnings with 55 cents per share compared to estimates of 48 cents per share. Company full year guidance also exceeded analyst estimates. Veeva is also strong on cash flow, increasing from $40 million in 2014 to almost $400 million in the most recent quarter. The company has $1.4 billion in cash reserves and no debt. Despite this, Veeva’s stock price has dropped 12% from its 3-month high of $168.42 and was immediately down 3% after earnings in late August.
Pinterest, too, had a minimal miss and lost $3 billion in market cap.
While these momentum stocks have been hammered, investors have cheered slow-growing companies like Apple (AAPL) and Intel (INTC) due to buybacks. Apple’s stock price has risen by 25% in the past three months and is now near its all-time high. The company had revenue growth of negative 2% year-over-year.
Way Forward for Momentum Stocks
In a previous analysis on MarketWatch, I had cautioned investors to know their winners as the market clearly did not have a method for differentiating beyond traditional valuation metrics. The safest way to trade tech stocks is to align investments with an overall macro technology trend in addition to fundamental analysis (the macro trend will prevail), and to have an exit strategy, such as a trailing stop, for risk management.
We’ve seen some stocks quickly recover, such as Roku, and others that haven’t rebounded, such as Veeva and Alteryx. Even the more solid recoveries suggest they are boosted by momentum and swing traders as they remain between support and resistance, as well as retail investors, as implied by lower volume.
The true test will be the upcoming cloud-software earnings reports to determine if the pattern will continue.
An earlier version of this article appeared in MarketWatch on November 21st, 2019 entitled Momentum stocks are down, but not for the reason you may have thought
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