Idle Speculation On Tech/Industrial Valuations

How to explain the fact (via Kevin Drum) that industrial companies are now valued more aggressively than tech companies?

What this says is that markets are more pessimistic about the growth prospects for industrial firms than for high-tech ones. That actually seems quite reasonable to me. The thing about high-tech firms is that the stuff they make tends to be relatively cheap. A MacBook Air is a steal compared to a new car, and a used computer can be found for almost nothing. Google is free. If you imagine a world in which the bulk of growth is going to occur in large developing nations. So imagine hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, etc. achieving something resembling the lifestyle of lower-income people in today’s rich countries. You’re imagining a household acquiring a quantity of cars, washing machines, refrigerators, toasters, vacuum cleaners, etc. whose dollar value vastly exceeds the price of its total quantity of computers, smartphones, and software.

In America, for a long time now we’ve been in a kind of major appliance funk. People don’t get richer and say, “Now I’m going to own seven toasters.” People buy these kind of low-tech goods, but it’s driven by population growth and depreciation. So the high-tech sector — new inventions — has been the high-growth sector. But in a world of catch-up growth you don’t need to be “high-tech” to find new customers. There are lots of people around the world who don’t own a blender.