Would you invest in technology companies right now?
I found myself pondering that question as I perused the transcript of an outstanding roundtable conversation published in Fortune with five investment pros. Three work for big fund-management companies or investment banks. One is a venture capitalist. And the fifth is a famous short seller, Jim Chanos of Enron fame.
The group is fearful about all sorts of investing sectors, but not a one bad-mouthed tech.
The reason, in the words of Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is that tech is an example of an “idiosyncratic” sector that doesn’t necessarily follow market fundamentals. This group of companies, in addition to biotech, “have no cyclicality but just have really strong growth way out in the future,” she says.
When Subramanian refers to cyclicality, she means with regard to the economy. Tech stocks do follow cycles, in particular investment cycles. But she makes a strong point that tech trends defy normal economic analysis. Deven Parekh, managing director of Insight Venture Partners, puts it well when he says: “There’s not a business process that software doesn’t enable: Whether you go to the ATM in the morning or you get into a cab, software is touching a bigger and bigger percentage of that interaction.” (This has been a theme of late for Data Sheet.)
The investment pros have much to be gloomy about: challenged earnings growth, plummeting oil prices, a slowdown in China. It’s fascinating to read a long, insightful document like this and see nothing worrisome about tech, where I typically see risks aplenty.
This article first appeared in the daily Fortune newsletter Data Sheet. Subscribe here for a daily dose of analysis from Adam Lashinsky and a curation of the day’s technology news from Heather Clancy.