Even though it is a repeat pattern, the daily grind of a stock market correction can be surprising to investors following a bull market.
This Wall Street Journal headline sums up the action so far in 2022, as investors flee some of the more-speculative stocks: With rate increases looming, investors dump shares of money-losing companies.
Analysts at the Journal concluded that “shares of unprofitable companies in the Nasdaq Composite Index have skidded while their profitable counterparts have traded nearly flat.”
Below is a screen of technology companies in the S&P 500 Index SPX, -1.22% showing which ones have had the highest average operating margins over the past five years. Such consistent profit-makers might be considered to be safer plays when investors fear rising interest rates.
During the earlier phases of the coronavirus pandemic, federal stimulus and other efforts to help businesses stay afloat, and concurrent moved by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates and increase the money supply, led to a tremendous move of cash from the debt markets into U.S. stocks.
And all that new money fed a frenzy of initial public offerings, including those circumventing the usual IPO process with quick offerings through special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs.
Those stocks are included in the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -2.28%, which as of 10:10 a.m. ET on Jan. 25 was down 2.9%, for a decline of 17% from its intraday high on Nov. 22. The S&P 500 Index was down 2.6% for the session, for a decline of 11% from its Jan. 4 high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.19% was down 2.1% for the day and down 9% from its high that was set on Jan. 5.
Screen for big-tech profits
The Nasdaq is heavily loaded with technology stocks, and many of those companies trade high to earnings because they are at early stages. Many others aren’t yet profitable.
So the following screen begins with the 76 companies in the S&P 500 information technology sector and then adds several tech players in the communication services sector, such as Netflix Inc. NFLX, -5.35%, Meta Platforms Inc. FB, -2.77%, Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -2.96% and Activision Blizzard Inc. ATVI, -1.06%, which has agreed to be acquired by Microsoft Corp. for $69 billion in cash, in a deal that is undergoing antitrust scrutiny.
We looked back at the companies’ operating margins for the past 20 reported quarters, using data provided by FactSet. A company’s operating margin is its profit per dollar of revenue after paying for the cost of production, including labor and materials, but before interest, taxes and some one-time items that can distort earnings results.
Here are the 20 companies from our initial screen of 85 tech companies in the S&P 500 that have had the highest average operating margins over the past 20 years. The list also includes the minimum and maximum margins during that five-year period:
|Company||Ticker||Average operating margin – 20 quarters||Maximum operating margin||Minimum operating margin|
|Visa Inc. Class A||V, +0.07%||68.99%||73.10%||65.59%|
|VeriSign Inc.||VRSN, -3.34%||67.57%||70.38%||63.84%|
|Netflix Inc.||NFLX, -5.35%||60.83%||65.82%||54.97%|
|Mastercard Inc. Class A||MA, -3.05%||58.35%||62.70%||51.85%|
|Fleetcor Technologies Inc.||FLT, +0.14%||54.08%||58.01%||39.98%|
|Micron Technology Inc.||MU, -2.69%||51.44%||66.99%||35.21%|
|Meta Platforms Inc. Class A||FB, -2.77%||50.69%||63.25%||41.03%|
|Texas Instruments Inc.||TXN, -2.46%||48.50%||56.11%||43.68%|
|Broadcom Inc.||AVGO, -1.37%||46.47%||55.73%||40.40%|
|Intel Corp.||INTC, -1.81%||44.49%||51.69%||38.29%|
|Microsoft Corp.||MSFT, -2.66%||44.24%||51.75%||38.59%|
|Oracle Corp.||ORCL, -1.64%||43.74%||49.02%||39.33%|
|Paychex Inc.||PAYX, -1.10%||41.89%||46.81%||36.33%|
|Analog Devices Inc.||ADI, -3.51%||41.13%||46.31%||27.66%|
|Skyworks Solutions Inc.||SWKS, -2.80%||40.15%||43.52%||33.02%|
|Jack Henry & Associates Inc.||JKHY, -2.68%||39.47%||43.77%||34.73%|
|Activision Blizzard Inc.||ATVI, -1.06%||38.95%||47.78%||26.82%|
|KLA Corp.||KLAC, -5.37%||38.81%||43.36%||31.72%|
|Fidelity National Information Services Inc.||FIS, -1.42%||38.78%||45.21%||29.86%|
|Microchip Technology Inc.||MCHP||38.10%||42.67%||31.88%|
A screen on one data element can only be a starting point for further research. You can click the tickers for more about each company. Click here for Tomi Kilgore’s detailed guide to the wealth of information available for free on the MarketWatch quote page.