Trading Desk: What’s The Matter With Microsoft?

The market mood remains lousy. Only the Fed is cheering. But one giant stock in particular has turned into a $2 trillion weight on all the index funds. I’m talking about Microsoft (MSFT) itself.

The stock has dropped 11% in the last three weeks and broke its last major support on Friday. The longer it flails down here, the harder it’s going to be to recover.

Admittedly, a bounce will come. The last couple of times the selling reached this point on MSFT, a rally gave shareholders a 9-10% lift in the days that followed. If statistical patterns persist, we’ll at least get a floor back beneath our feet.

But that’s not quite enough to break the ceiling that MSFT had so much trouble breaking through early this month. Back then, the 200-day moving average kept the bulls from running beyond $293. In fact, MSFT hasn’t been able to get above that line since April . . . and the trend points down.

There are three possible outcomes here. MSFT can rally back to that line, fail to break it and once again plunge until brave buyers step up. It can punch through the line and keep moving up.

Or what’s become intervening resistance will get in its way and the stock will struggle to clear $270, much less $290. Right now, that’s the worst and most likely scenario.

And it’s bad for a market that is collectively overweight MSFT to an extreme degree. This single stock accounts for about 1/12 of the Dow industrials’ decline . . . 1/16 of the S&P 500 . . . and about 1/9 of the NASDAQ.

This is what you get when a top holding blows out like this. The stocks around the fringes are powerless to overcome the gravity sink at the core.

Luckily, Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) and Tesla (TSLA) are in slightly better technical position. Unlike MSFT (and Alphabet (GOOG)) they have support, a statistical floor to stand on. It would take more extreme downside pressure to take that away from them.

And I’m seeing encouraging signs of life farther down the food chain. Names like META, WDAY and NFLX have better support than MSFT. So does PYPL. They’re set up to face higher, without so much worry about where the bottom will eventually be.

But what’s wrong with MSFT in particular? Ironically, I think it’s a matter of “smart money” reaching for the old Fed playbook and punishing growth stocks more severely than their slower counterparts.

MSFT is on track to boost the bottom line 24% in the next two fiscal years, which would ordinarily rate at least a slight premium valuation. But at $290, that was still roughly a 24X multiple . . . a little rich in a world where interest rates are rising.

AAPL is growing a lot slower, but it actually rates a higher multiple than MSFT today. I think people are paying a premium for reliability here. AAPL might not be able to thrill anyone these days, but at least you probably won’t be disappointed as long as Tim Cook is working his accounting magic.

In other words, hope is the problem at MSFT right now. To me, that’s an opportunity. Because this is a company that is not going away. They have plenty of accounting magic of their own.

They’re going to make their numbers over time. And they’re going to reward shareholders. Buy the dip. And buy the dip on GOOG too.