Markets ultimately need information to operate efficiently. Monday, the U.S. stock market ended the day without much information.
President Trump may slap additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it looks as though U.S. tech companies, including semiconductor companies, are at risk. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 0.35%. The S&P 500 ended down 0.56%. The Nasdaq fell 1.43%. Chip stocks got hit, with the Direxion Daily SemiConductor Bull 3X Shares ETF (SOXL) - Get Direxion Daily Semiconductor Bull 3x Shares Report down 4.4% on the day, and other semiconductor ETF's down as well.
But nobody yet knows any details of the tariffs. The tariffs could be on components chipmakers need to buy from China in order to make the actual chip, which would put pressure on those companies' margins. They could also be on chips made in China by U.S. companies that will sell into the U.S. In that case, increased prices due to tariffs would put pressure on sales volumes. Mike Loewengart, Vice President of Investment Strategy at E*Trade told TheStreet, it's likely "to be a combination of both."
John Meza, senior equities analyst at USAA, told TheStreet it's not clear what impact tariffs would have on the semiconductor industry. "In our recent discussions with several companies in the sector, the level of concern expressed by management has been fairly muted and there is a general belief that there will be minimal impact to their business at this time."
Still, investors need to be sure of what they're invested in. "There are things that investors can do," Loewengart said. He's got three main strategies.
Limit International Exposure
"The first would be to mitigate your international exposure," Loewengart said. If stocks around the world could be headed for volatility in light of trade disputes, that's not exactly healthy for the portfolio. Perhaps more importantly, investors can limit exposure or direct holdings in companies that deal internationally, as those stocks are vulnerable to tariffs.
Consider Small-Cap Stocks
"The second strategy is overweighting U.S. domestic or small-cap stocks, which traditionally have been insulated from overseas dealings because of the nature of their dealings," Loewengart said. "They're smaller and their operations are focused domestically he added. "Overall, the small-cap space appears to be better positioned than large-cap domestic stocks., which have exposure to international markets."
"Dividend paying stocks can offer a defensive play against tariffs," Loewengart said. Bank and financials are good candidates, for instance. TD Bank (TD) - Get Toronto-Dominion Bank Report currently pays a 3.4% dividend. JPMorgan Chae & Co (JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. Report pays a 2.81% dividend. And CitiGroup's (C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report dividend is 2.54%.
The past several days have been tough for chip stocks, as most chip stocks fell Wednesday Sept. 12 after Goldman Sachs analysts published a note out to clients saying an oversupply of chips is putting pressure on prices, and that many chipmakers will therefore see compressed margins. Micron (MU) - Get Micron Technology, Inc. Report sold off the hardest that day.
Although investors are waiting for further clarity on the tariffs and considering the oversupply situation within the chips space, there's still an argument to be made longer-term for chip stocks. Investors should also consider "all the strong technology drivers that will help the industry long-term," Lisa Chai, Senior Research Analyst at Robo Global index provider told TheStreet. "You've got Robotics, AI and other new end markets like auto and IOT and 5G, are driving impressive volume and asp increases over the long term," she added."
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