Chips, tech wounded by Trump reshuffle, blocked Broadcom deal

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(Bloomberg) -- Technology megacaps and semiconductor makers that led the U.S. market on its way up last week are now leading the market on its way down.

A combination of factors contributed to the rout. President Donald Trump’s appointment of Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State raised concern that the administration may take a harder stance on national security and trade, potentially crimping the revenue of chipmakers that have a bulk of their production abroad. Before that, Trump issued an executive order blocking Broadcom Ltd. from acquiring chipmaker Qualcomm Inc., citing national security concerns.

Tuesday’s retreat in the index of tech megacaps interrupts a seven-day streak of gains capped by a 24 percent rally in Micron Technology Inc. and a 7 percent jump in Intel Corp. The rally in tech stocks occurred as the broad index traded sideways as investors fretted over Trump’s steel-and-aluminum tariffs and rising bond yields. The sector is due for a wake-up call, according to Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.

“When you think about national security, the biggest issue is cyber-security and defense, which directly impacts tech and chipmakers because a lot of hardware is built overseas,” O’Rourke said. “Investors mistakenly thought the sector would be immune to the trade war.”

Semiconductors reversed gains from earlier in the day, when the group rose as much as 1.3 percent as relief over February’s in-line inflation data outweighed concern from the blocked Qualcomm-Broadcom deal. The 37-point reversal isn’t unusual for the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index: a similar pattern played out on Feb. 27, when the index traded between a 1.3 percent gain and a 0.4 percent loss.

The Nasdaq 100 Index fell as much as 1.1 percent after climbing 0.8 percent earlier in the day. A 131-point trading range was similar to Feb. 21, when the index traded between a 1.5 percent gain and a 0.3 percent loss. Even with the dip on Tuesday, the gauge of technology megacaps is up 13 percent since the market correction last month, more than any other U.S. gauge.

--With assistance from Lu Wang

Bloomberg News