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Look for Trends with Lasting Power



February 5, 2019

There’s an old saying in investing – “Follow the trend”.  But of course, the hard part is in knowing how far along we are in the trend. Naturally, it’s better to get in early, rather than late, and in my view, emerging technologies represent a great opportunity for early stage exposure to a long and promising trend. Recent cooling in sentiment towards broader technology, along with more reasonable valuations in a rapidly growing area, make this a good entry to a sector that has the potential to outperform for years to come.

With technology investing, volatility is currently the norm, and clearly, the broader uptrend in global equities ran into trouble in late 2018. In December, there were indeed few places to hide as nine out of 10 asset classes retreated. Technology plays that had dominated index performances for years finally pulled back in a significant way, which in my view, presents interesting opportunities for investors who still believe in some of the fundamental stories that underpinned these rallies.

Will Amazon continue to dominate online retail and cloud services? Probably. Will Apple continue to be the Scrooge McDuck cash-hoarding machine it has been for a decade? Well, perhaps not as much. So while I believe that opportunity still abounds, I also feel that a new environment is upon us – one in which investors need to be more selective, even in the technology sector.

The broader trend that I feel will hold strong going forward is that technology will continue to pervade throughout the fabric of most industries. It affects how we communicate, transact, work and play. It is inescapable and has come to affect most facets of our lives. Let’s face it, technology is forming the foundation for life in the modern world, and astute companies are realizing that virtually all companies need to, at least in part, be technology firms. To not understand this fact is to risk falling behind, missing opportunities or perhaps ensuring one’s demise.

Much of modern technology, per se, is not new. What is relatively recent is the impact that big data and computation power are having in the areas of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and advanced robotics. As I wrote in a previous blog on data proliferation, much of it comes from high mobile phone penetration and usage. Computation power, that can quickly make sense of this data in a myriad of amazing ways, has expanded greatly. Machine learning is being driven by an avalanche of information and quick processors that enables it to draw conclusions that are more accurate and informative than we could have ever imagined just a few years ago.

As an example, A.I. is transforming healthcare by helping surgeons and physicians to make smarter decisions at the point of contact. Algorithms are highlighting problem areas on MRIs and X-rays, which improves accuracy and reduces physician fatigue. Want to invest in that? You can, but in this fast-moving area, I would suggest doing so by buying a fund that diversifies your risk across leading companies in a space that includes key categories such as Advanced Robotics, Augmented Reality and Cloud & Big Data. RBOT and FOUR do just that. And with the recent weakness in the broader technology space, it’s a great time to consider buying these companies on sale.

On January 17, 2019, Bloomberg reported that Apple will likely cut back on hiring new employees in many of its divisions – but not in the area of artificial intelligence. This isn’t surprising. Our RBOT holding, Intuitive Surgical (“ISRG”), pre-announced better-than-expected revenues on January 9. Further, on January 30, Alibaba (“BABA”) announced weak revenue growth but said it continues to invest heavily in cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

In these uncertain times, make sure to look for tech trends that have staying power.

The views/opinions expressed herein may not necessarily be the views of Horizons ETFs Management (Canada) Inc. All comments, opinions and views expressed are of a general nature and should not be considered as advice to purchase or to sell mentioned securities. Before making any investment decision, please consult your investment advisor or advisors.

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