NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Last week, I asked readers to e-mail me and tell me whether my concerns about this year's explosive tech rally were overdone.
The Nasdaq was up 9.5 percent year-to-date when I wrote the column and in the week since, it's tacked on another 2.9 percent. So I was expecting most readers to blast me for trying to throw cold water on this recent tech surge, which is reminding some of the late 1990s.
Back then it was heresy to suggest that a tech stock might be overvalued, and any stories professing such thoughts were usually met with a deluge of expletive-ridden, grammatically incorrect, EXCESSIVELY CAPITALIZED diatribes.
The bears make their case
I didn't get any of those, thankfully. Sure, there were a handful of readers who thought I was completely off base. But many shared my skepticism.
"I live and work in Austin, Texas. Instead of the sound of commerce, all you hear are the crickets at night. It's as though we've moved back in time to the mid-80s. We'd see a tech boom fast here. But we don't because there isn't one. The present rise is simply 'irrational exuberance' again," wrote Jim M.
That's obviously unfortunate. And given all the job cuts in tech land, which have hit cities like Austin and San Francisco hard, it's tough to get excited about a 10 percent spike in the Nasdaq. Layoffs are a big reason for the earnings growth we've seen lately from tech companies, not true demand for or excitement about innovative products.
“ The present rise is simply 'irrational exuberance' again. ”
Tech Investor reader Jim M
Another reader, Michael C., wrote in to say that investors shouldn't forget about valuation, a concept that was discarded in the go-go '90s. "Even if they have twice the year everyone is hoping for, it would not justify most tech P/E ratios by any reasonable historical standard," he said.
A great point. And my biggest concern about the tech rally is that valuations are starting to get out of whack.
Amazon with a P/E of 63, based on pro-forma earnings estimates? Juniper Networks at 82 times 2004 earnings projections? Even Oracle, at 28 times fiscal 2004 estimates, seems rich when you consider that earnings are expected to grow less than 10 percent next year.
And so do the bulls
One reader pointed out the perils of being too patient. "If you wait until tech spending increases to buy tech stocks, you will have lost a large share of the gains," wrote Tom T.
A valid criticism. But as trite as it sounds, I'd rather be safe, and even slightly late, than sorry. I'm still not convinced that the recent rally is based on legitimate faith in the sector's fundamentals. In fact, a lot of the recent run can be attributed to short-covering -- with record short interest on the Nasdaq, some bears have been forced to buy, which feeds the momentum.
Still, the more ardent fans of tech might have been too busy talking to their brokers to e-mail me. Even though I received a mixed message from readers, if you look at the results of the poll that accompanied the column, it seems that many investors have fallen head over heels for tech again.
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Of the 15,206 who voted, 20 percent said they don't touch techs at all. But 37 percent said they would be buying more tech stocks this year and another 37 percent said they would be standing pat. Only 6 percent said they would be selling.
Or to quote reader David P.: "Just keep doing what you're doing. I'm having a field day going against whatever the analysts say. You idiots are like Gold!"
Glad to be of service.