Big tech stocks were crushed in December. Now they’re back

Tech stocks took a nasty tumble along with the broader market in the fourth quarter of 2018 due to worries about a global economic slowdown, trade tension with China and concerns that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates one too many times.

Facebook’s myriad privacy problems didn’t help matters. Neither did a shocking earnings warning from Apple just after New Year’s Day due to sluggish demand for iPhones in China.

But techs have come roaring back to life this year, helping to lead the overall market higher. The Nasdaq is up more than 15% so far in 2019.

Sure, global growth worries haven’t gone away. In fact, fears of an inverted yield curve and weak economic data from Germany sent the market into a tailspin Friday.

FAANG has come storming back in 2019

Still, investors seem less worried now that the best days for tech leaders might be behind them.

Facebook shares are actually up more than 25% this year despite even more concerns about user privacy.

Apple has surged 21% as investors have quickly forgotten about slumping iPhone sales.

Apple fans are now getting excited about the company’s growing services business. And the company is hosting a big event Monday where it is expected to highlight its video streaming plans.

The rest of the so-called FAANG stocks are surging this year too.

Amazon is up 18%. Google owner Alphabet has gained 16%.

And Netflix has soared 35%, despite more competition from Apple and Amazon as well as new streaming services coming from Disney and AT&T-owned WarnerMedia. (CNN Business is a part of WarnerMedia.)

The revenge of “old tech”

Other tech titans are surging as well, including older tech companies that are transforming their businesses to take advantage of the growing demand for cloud computing services and cybersecurity.

Dow components Cisco and IBM, which is in the process of buying cloud and open source software company Red Hat, are up 22% and 23% respectively this year. So they, along with Apple, are the top stocks in the Dow this year.

Microsoft, which has become a leader in the cloud under CEO Satya Nadella, isn’t far behind them. It’s up 15% this year. And Microsoft rival Oracle is up 17% as it has also shifted much of its software to the cloud.

Two other big techs that have been market studs the past few years — semiconductor makers Nvidia and AMD — continue to thrive this year as well.

Nvidia and AMD, which both develop graphics chips that are key for gaming devices, are up 33% and 43% respectively. AMD rival Intel is up 14% year-to-date too.

So much for investors bailing on the tech sector, huh?

Of course, a lot can change between now and the end of the year. If the US economy begins to slow dramatically along with China and Europe, big techs will likely get slammed.

There are also legitimate concerns about regulators around the world cracking down even more on the tech giants.

Calls to break up large tech firms could escalate now that US Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed that Amazon, Google and Facebook should be split apart.

But there’s a great case to be made for big tech stocks remaining market leaders for the foreseeable future.

Brian Sterz, portfolio manager with Miracle Mile Advisors, conceded that valuations for tech stocks have gotten to be a little frothy in the short-term. So it might soon be time for the sector’s rally to take a brief pause.

But he added that most of the tech leaders, particularly ones that are big players in cloud infrastructure, should continue to do well.

Sterz noted that even if the broader market pulls back again, many of the big techs could hold up well since they have a lot of cash and very little debt. That should protect them from the worst of any wild market mood swings in the future.