5 Min Read
* Asia Pacific IT index posts biggest loss since December
* US tech stocks slumped Friday on reports on iPhone, valuations
* Asia tech stocks remain cheaper than US ones
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE, June 12 (Reuters) - Asian technology stocks were clobbered on Monday, following a slide in their U.S. peers, as caution and profit taking caught up to a sector that had shot to record highs on strong global demand for electronic devices and gadgets.
In its biggest one-day slide since December, the MSCI Asia Pacific Information Technology index fell 1.5 percent, after hitting a 17-year high on Friday.
That pulled down the MSCI Asia Pacific index by 0.4 percent.
But with Asian tech valuations cheap relative to U.S. ones, investors and analysts in the region largely dismiss the possibility that Monday's pullback will turn into a longer-term rout.
Chinese internet firm JD.com, Chinese mobile social networking company Momo Inc., Korean internet service firm Naver Corp. and tech equipment maker LG Innotek slumped between 5.5 and 6.5 percent.
For a graphic on Asian tech share trends, click reut.rs/2rQV3il
U.S. tech stocks fell sharply on Friday as concerns about Apple's new iPhones and a cautious Goldman Sachs report on the sector prompted investors to book profits and rotate into less expensive counters.
The S&P 500 information technology index shed 2.7 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq slumped as much as 2.9 percent before closing down 1.8 percent.
Apple Inc., Alphabet, and Amazon three of the five biggest companies on the Nasdaq, closed down more than 3 percent each, with Apple suffering its biggest one-day loss in 14 months.
"The mini-tech crash last week appeared to be rotation into laggards, e.g. financials, and therefore one should not necessarily believe this is the beginning of a long rout," said Sat Duhra, an Asian fund manager at Henderson Global Investors.
"However that's not to say it's undeserved – too many tech stocks have re-rated without producing the goods – they are driven by sentiment rather than exceptional earning beats and this kind of move... is not sustainable."
A Bloomberg News report that iPhones to be launched later this year will use modem chips with slower download speeds than some rival smartphones knocked Apple's shares, which had surged over 50 percent over the past year on high hopes for the iPhone8.
In Asia, Apple suppliers Hon Hai Precision Industry and LG Display dropped as much as 2.9 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, on Monday.
"The tech sector cannot lead markets forever and with many of these tech stocks at or near 52-week highs, we see this as a bit of profit taking for now, but will closely monitor the situation this week," said Chris Brankin, chief executive officer at TD Ameritrade Asia in Singapore.
The five largest technology leaders -- Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google-parent Alphabet -- shed a staggering $100 billion on Friday alone to dampen the stellar performance of the sector for all of 2017, Brankin noted.
But investors and analysts remained largely sanguine about the fundamentals of Asian tech companies, despite Monday's pullback.
Jim McCafferty, head of Asia ex-Japan equity research at Nomura in Hong Kong, attributed much of the declines in Asia to the contagion effect.
"When a big company like Apple drops 4 percent, there's going to be a knock-on effect," McCafferty said.
"For Asia, the hard data suggests that the sector continues to grow. And valuations don't appear that stretched relative to the U.S."
The MSCI Asia Pacific IT benchmark is trading at 14.9 times forward earnings, while the MSCI U.S. IT index is at 18.6, according to Thomson Reuters DataStream.
While some Asian companies have surged on the back of factors other than fundamentals -- such as Tencent, which has been lifted by mainland Chinese demand for Hong Kong stocks -- strong performers can be found, Henderson's Duhra said.
"One should stick to tech names backed up by strong operational performance and strong earnings support," he said. "For example, JD.com, in our view, is more attractive on that basis today versus Alibaba."
Samsung Electronics, which, despite a 66 percent gain in the past year is trading at only 13 times earnings, is also a good buy, Duhra said.
Samsung fell 1.7 percent on Monday.
"Stocks do not go up in a straight line," Nomura's McCafferty said. "We feel quite relaxed."
Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Kim Coghill