The market looks like a dumbbell. On one side, despite the giant spring selloff, you've got stocks that are still overvalued. In the middle you've got those that are reasonably valued by the market's efficiency. And at that other side, you've got 50 pounds of undervalued companies.
This is the view of investment banking muscle-man Sandy Robertson, a partner in
. And, he says, that 50-pound side of the market is getting heavier as more and more stocks are ignored. "Some dot-coms are flying high, others are fairly priced, and a huge amount are being ignored. The universe at the left of the barbell is getting larger."
David Bonderman, founding partner in investment partnership
Texas Pacific Group
, the LBO firm that helped turn around
and is now scooping up distressed tech companies, has his own grim metric: He says that 25% of tech stocks are trading at the bargain-basement level of 0.5 times revenues.
Which of these sad sacks might bounce back? Bonderman declined to elaborate, saying he doesn't talk to the press.
Whatever the state of the weakened
in the midst of this week's 28th annual
Chase H&Q Tech Conference
, Day One didn't seem to spark any big investment ideas. There seemed to be some buzz around wireless Web and semiconductor stocks. Turnout was strong for presentations by chip-sector companies, such as
. But even an upbeat presentation by Rambus CEO Geoff Tate and CFO Gary Harmon couldn't move the stock that short-sellers love to hate and bulls love to jack up. The stock, by no means a value play, was down about 6% before Tate and Harmon spoke and an hour later it was still off about 6%. It ended the day down 8% at 190 3/4.
"The bloom is really off that
dot-com rose. A friend said to me, 'A souffle can only rise once,' " said Kevin Landis, chief investment officer and co-founder of
First Hand Funds
. "Everything is cheap. Are they undervalued? Those are two different things."
"Stocks are discounted 10% to 20% to 50%," says Todd Bakar, director of equity research at Chase H&Q. "Investors are less concerned about fundamentals. They are grappling with valuations. Stocks are down 40%, but are they still expensive?"
Despite the market's recent weak performance, the Nasdaq is still up 47% from last year's H&Q conference, Bakar points out.
And the other bright spot of so many stocks trading well off their highs, says Landis, is that if he hears something he likes this year at the Chase H&Q conference, he can jump into the stock without fretting about whether it is too pricey.