These conclusions are a startling sign of how much the world and its financial markets have been battered in the last year or two.
Until the S&P Indices findings, for example, Exxon and Chevron had been almost universally classified as value stocks. In the thinking that prevailed a couple of years ago, an urgent need to address global warming impaired the long-term viability of fossil fuel companies. Even among investors who favored their shares, these firms were presumed to be a good value precisely because they were so unfashionable.
Last year, at least, those assumptions about growth and value stocks were overturned, along with many other presumptions about the world.
The World Changed
Russia’s yearlong war in Ukraine set off a series of unanticipated shocks that elevated world oil and gas prices. Energy prices have come down a bit, but still remain high.
Publicly traded energy companies had outsize gains in sales, profits and stock prices. Exxon and Chevron have both reported record profits for last year. The S&P 500 dropped more than 18 percent in 2022, but energy was the only sector to rise, with an eye-popping total return of almost 67 percent, including dividends. The sector’s sales, price and earnings momentum transformed its biggest components into growth stocks, at least in the backward-looking lens used by S&P 500 Indices.
At the same time, the eight big tech companies stumbled, for idiosyncratic reasons, as well as systemic ones. Tesla, for example, faces serious competition in the market for electric vehicles, even as the Twitter escapades of its proprietor, Elon Musk, may be turning off some would-be car buyers. Meta reported a continuing decline in sales and earnings on Wednesday, though its stock soared on plans for further share buybacks, amid a broad stock market rally fueled by hopes that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases were abating. Still, the scale of its unprofitable investments in virtual reality have worried many investors. Netflix, which once said it competed only with sleep for the attention of its subscribers, now jousts with a horde of streaming companies.
But, in broad terms, two real-world factors are responsible for their reclassification this year. First, while the initial, lockdown phase of the Covid-19 pandemic generally increased tech firms’ sales and profits in 2020 and 2021, it set them up for a sharp decline in their growth rates in 2022 as the economy recovered.