Thanks to impressive performances by mature technology companies, such as Dow components Intel (NasdaqGS: INTC) and Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT), coupled with a stellar showing by Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLK) climbed nearly 18% last year.
To be precise, XLK, the largest technology ETF, gained 17.8%, outpacing the S&P 500 by 430 basis points in the process. However, XLK was left feeling like Rodney Dangerfield. As in the ETF just did not getting any respect.
Investors pulled $1.53 billion from XLK last year. To put number into perspective, only seven ETFs saw greater outflows in 2014 and six of those funds either finished the year lower or badly lagged the S&P 500. [Tech ETFs Provide Sturdy Growth]
AltaVista Research has a neutral rating on XLK, though that assessment is not as tepid as it may sound. The research firm’s neutral rating “indicates that valuations adequately reflect the fundamentals of stocks in these funds. The majority of funds we cover fall into this category,” said AltaVista in a new research note.
The $13 billion XLK allocates a combined 57% of its weight to its top 10 holdings, a group that when excluding the 11.8% devoted to Facbebook (NasdaqGS: FB) and two classes of Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG), has a distinct value tilt. Consider this: Telecom is one of the most discounted sectors relative to the S&P 500 and XLK allocates 9.3% of its weight to Dow components Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T).
“Tech seems to have become a new Value sector. Growth has slowed, but long-term growth forecasts still far exceed those for the S&P500 while margins & ROE remain impressively high. Unlike many sectors valuations have not drifted much higher since 2009. As a result, Tech now trades at a P/E discount to the S&P500 whereas historically it has enjoyed a premium. We think Tech appears relatively attractive at these levels,” according to AltaVista.