U.S. tech stocks were active again Tuesday, following yesterday's slide into correction territory for the Nasdaq Composite, as lawmakers geared-up for what could be a lengthy probe into the biggest and most influential companies in the sector amid reports of a looming antitrust challenge from the Department of Justice.
The House Judiciary Committee unveiled a sweeping "top-to-bottom' review of unnamed tech companies late Monday, the first such probe by Congressional lawmakers, as reports of a dual effort from the DoJ and the Federal Trade Commission to tackle the perceived dominance and potential abuses of tech giants such as Apple (AAPL - Get Report) , Facebook (FB - Get Report) , Alphabet (GOOGL - Get Report) and Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) .
"The growth of monopoly power across our economy is one of the most pressing economic and political challenges we face today," said David Cicilline (D- RI), who chairs the Antitrust Subcommittee, adding that "market power in digital markets presents a whole new set of dangers."
"After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is vital for Congress to step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or if we need new legislation," he added.
Yeah, the Justice Department would be taking the case like SPOT has brought... Very bad for Apple. Worse it favors making Apple move out of China https://t.co/Zm1OTUurVD— Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) June 4, 2019
Tech stocks, in fact, have been hit from all side over the past month, with the Nasdaq sliding 10% from its May 3 peak following President Donald Trump's decision to apply tariffs on $200 billion worth of China-made imports while threatening further levies of consumer tech goods in the coming months.
China, meanwhile, has said it will prepare and "unreliable entities" list of U.S. companies it sees as a threat to its domestic economy, a clear retaliation for the Treasury Department's blacklisting of Huawei Technologies last month, putting tech companies directly in the cross-hairs of the world's biggest trade dispute.
Apple, which gets around a fifth of its revenues from China and could be susceptible to reprisal trade moves from Beijing, has suffered the most over the past month, falling 18.16% to a three-month low of $173.30 each.
Google parent Alphabet, meanwhile, has fallen 12.67% to a near 2019 low of $1,038.74 amid reports it could face an extended anti-trust probe alongside threats from China linked to its decision to cut off Huawei, the world's largest handset maker, from its android update platform.
"Potential implications for Google could include new regulations on business practices, or
an antitrust probe leading to a breakup," said Bank of America analyst Justin Post. To break up Google (on unfair search practices or too much power to influence opinion on multiple properties?), the DOJ would likely have to file a lawsuit and convince judges that Google has undermined competition."
"It is very rare to break up a company but not unheard of, with Standard Oil and AT&T as past
examples, though the government tried to break up Microsoft and failed," he added, noting a full investigation could take as many as five years to resolve.
Facebook, as well, has found itself under increasing regulatory risk pressure, even as its mostly avoided the overhang of the U.S.-China trade dispute, thanks in part to its ongoing issues related to election meddling and data misuse, each of which make it a prime target for any Congressional action. Facebook shares have fallen 16% over the past month and closed at a late-March low of $164.15 last night.
Amazon is also firmly in the sights of regulators, given both its dominance in online commerce and the frequency with which President Donald Trump targets the group for both its alleged unfair use of the U.S. Postal Service and its connection to CEO -- and Trump critic -- Jeff Bezos. Amazon slumped 4.64% yesterday to extend its one-month decline to around 13.75%.