Markets

Stock Market Today: Big Tech Roars, Everyone Else Snores

Blowout earnings from Apple (AAPL), Amazon.com (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) led another charge by the Nasdaq on Friday.

The stock market closed out an up-and-down week with another very clear separation of the haves and have-lesses.

Big Tech ruled the day thanks to a trio of mega-cap earnings pops. Apple (AAPL, +10.5%) shot to new all-time highs after its Thursday evening report, where it said quarterly sales jumped 11% year-over-year and announced a 4-for-1 stock split effective in August. It did say, however, that it thinks iPhone supply will be delayed a few weeks this fall.

Amazon.com (AMZN, +3.7%) crushed revenue and profit expectations alike, and its grocery sales tripled year-over-year. Several analysts responded by revising their price targets higher, including Canaccord Genuity's Maria Ripps and Michael Graham. The pair see AMZN shares hitting $3,800 over the next 12 months, up from $3,300 previously.

"With consumer shopping behavior shifting online at an accelerating pace, structural competitive advantages around fulfillment and scale, and a reasonable ~2x multiple on eCommerce GMV driving most of our valuation, we still find AMZN stock very compelling and think much of this strength will persist beyond the current pandemic," they write.

Facebook (FB, +8.2%), meanwhile, reported Q2 revenues that improved by double digits. Also, active user figures grew more than expected, and average revenue per user was better than the Street forecast.

Other areas of the market didn't look so strong. Chevron (CVX, -2.7%) and Exxon Mobil (XOM, +0.5%) both reported quarterly losses, and the Dow finished with a muted 0.4% gain to 26,428 after being in the red much of the day. The S&P 500 was a little better at +0.8% to 3,271, and the small-cap Russell 2000 dropped by 1% to 1,480.

But the tech-laden Nasdaq cruised 1.5% higher to 10,745, where it's flirting yet again with new all-time highs.

Winners and Losers Are Separating Again

"The stock market isn't the economy," you've likely heard in recent months. It's certainly true, but the market is indeed starting to show signs of more accurately reflecting what's going on in the economy, as tech companies positively impacted by COVID-19 continue to climb higher while more economically sensitive stocks sag.

"There's people going on about the bubble in big tech, but my own personal take on that, which was only reinforced by last night (when Apple, Amazon and Facebook reported), is that it's not a bubble in big tech," says Will Rhind, founder and CEO of ETF provider GraniteShares. "It's a bubble in the rest of the market that arguably has been propped up way beyond fundamentals due to the financial intervention of the central banks."

"But these companies at the top, you can argue about whether they should be at the valuations that they are, but these are companies that are making incredible sums of money and been incredible beneficiaries of the coronavirus. I think there's been a dislocation that's happened between the virtual economy, where these companies thrive in, versus the real physical economy, where you have airlines, hotels, things that have been decimated."

If the U.S. recovery is indeed hobbled by extended Washington bickering over a new stimulus package and coronavirus flare-ups, among other headwinds, investors might need to tweak their portfolios to suit.

For instance, more people are clearly favoring gold, which rose another 1% to new highs at $1,985.90 per ounce Friday and extended the 2020 rally in gold-focused funds. Assets under management in larger physical gold funds, such as the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and iShares Gold Trust (IAU), have swelled by more than 70% in 2020, according to Ycharts data. Smaller funds, such as the GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR) and Aberdeen Standard Physical Gold Shares ETF (SGOL), have more than doubled their AUM.

It also might be time to shake loose weaker positions that could sink in a broad-market selloff, such as these 14 vulnerable-looking stocks.

Another way to look for red flags? Short interest. By looking at how heavily Wall Street is betting against a stock, you can get an idea of just how negative the prospects might be for those shares going forward.

The bears don't always get it right, of course, and sometimes their targets are "squeezed" higher on good news, making heavily shorted stocks a playground for opportunistic traders. But if you're looking to play it safe, consider steering clear of these 18 stocks, which are among the most heavily shorted on Wall Street.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN, BAR and FB as of this writing.

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