The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.
Tech stocks have been a bit of a whirling dervish lately. And the Nasdaq was getting taken to the proverbial woodshed again Thursday.
But repeat after me. This is not 2000! Tech stocks, writ large, are not overvalued.
But the biggest difference between now and 14 years ago (other than Lindsay Lohan still having a promising acting career) is that most major technology stocks are trading at very reasonable valuations. The days of Cisco (CSCO) fetching a triple-digit P/E ratio are long gone.
Heck, in 2000 you couldn't even calculate a P/E ratio for a lot of the Internet stocks because many of them didn't have what the E stands for: earnings.
Fortunately, there are plenty of values to be had in tech. I ran a screen (thanks, FactSet!) to find tech stocks at attractive prices that are expected to post healthy gains in sales and profits. To top it off, these stocks also have squeaky clean balance sheets (i.e. little debt) and all but one of the ones I'm about to discuss pay a dividend.
So here are a "Lucky 7" tech stocks that might be able to withstand more volatility in the Nasdaq.
Apple (AAPL) I realize that Apple hasn't released a truly innovative new product in years. And Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. So?
This stock may have been abandoned by momentum investors. But it trades at just 12 times earnings estimates for this year, below its long-term projected average annual earnings growth rate of 14%. And it has an iNormous amount of cash. Ignore the haters and focus on the still solid fundamentals and thrifty valuation.
Microsoft (MSFT) The maker of Windows is actually the flip side of Apple. Investors are thrilled that new CEO Satya Nadella is not old CEO Steve Ballmer.
Like Apple, Mister Softee is a stock that no longer makes the growth investor crowd that excited. But that could change under Nadella, who is focusing heavily on the company's cloud-based business in a way that Ballmer failed to do. With a P/E of 15 and a long-term growth rate of 11%, it's not as much of a bargain as Apple.
Still, Microsoft may have more potential than Apple thanks to Nadella. And when's the last time you could say that Microsoft is a more dynamic company than Apple? 1990-something?
Qualcomm (QCOM) The beauty of owning this company is that it allows you to make an agnostic bet on the future of wireless.
Qualcomm's wireless chipsets are a mainstay of nearly all mobile devices. So if you are an iPhone/iPad owner or someone that prefers products running on Google's (GOOGL) Android system, Qualcomm doesn't care. The company also has no debt and pays a dividend that yields nearly 2%.
And new CEO Steve Mollenkopf, who actually was rumored to be a candidate for the Microsoft top job before Qualcomm hastily promoted him, is focusing heavily on China as a new area of growth. If he's successful in getting Qualcomm technology in more Chinese phones, this stock could really pop.
Corning (GLW) This company actually lived through the last tech boom and has adapted to take advantage of the latest big trend in tech: mobile. Corning was a star tech stock in the late 1990s because of its fiber-optic cable business. There was huge demand for that when the Internet was in its infant stages.
But that segment collapsed with the rest of tech in 2000. Can you say JDS Uniphase (JDSU)? Fortunately, Corning is hot again due to the more mundane business of glass. Its Gorilla Glass products are a mainstay of smartphones, tablets and laptops.
While Corning's shares are occasionally prone to some swings any time there is a rumor about Apple considering the use of sapphire glass displays from rival GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), the worries seem to be priced into the stock. Corning trades for just 15 times earnings estimates and profits are expected to grow at a 17% annual clip.
Applied Materials (AMAT) In case you haven't noticed, the chip sector has held up quite nicely during this nasty bout of tech turmoil. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) is up 8% so far in 2014.
One of the best ways to play the rebound in semiconductor stocks like Intel (INTC) and Texas Instruments (TXN) is through the companies that supply equipment to these firms. Applied Materials is the chip equipment leader. And as long as chip companies are ramping up capital spending, that's great news for AMAT.
The stock trades at 18.5 times earnings estimates. So it's not dirt cheap. But earnings are expected to rise by more than 20% a year, on average, for the next few years. The 2% dividend yield does not hurt either.
AOL (AOL) I did a double take when I noticed this stock. But AOL is finally benefiting from stronger online advertising demand and cutting its reliance on its legacy Internet access business. It's telling that AOL is the only online ad company to make it through my screen. No Google, Yahoo (YHOO) or Facebook (FB).
Why? AOL has little debt, trades for less than 20 times earnings estimates and should be able to post annual profit increases in the mid-teens for the next few years. With AOL putting the worst of the Patch hyperlocal debacle behind it, investors can focus on its more lucrative online video and content businesses like Adap.tv and The Huffington Post.
Sure, CEO Tim Armstrong doesn't win points for being a nice guy after his Obamacare snafu earlier this year (who can forget "distressed babies"?). But it's best to ignore emotions when you invest. Look at the numbers.
NetEase (NTES) I was hoping that at least one Chinese tech stock would pop up on my screen. Online gaming company NetEase did. Now don't worry about how NetEase is China's King (KING) or Zynga (ZNGA). This is a very profitable company that even pays a dividend.
NetEase has recently expanded into South Korea and Thailand. And it has plans to launch games in the U.S. as well. That may be a risky move. But NetEase trades for less than 12 times 2014 earnings estimates. It's much cheaper than most other Chinese techs, such as Qihoo 360 (QIHU) and Sina (SINA).
So there you have it. Seven tech stocks that should hopefully let you sleep easily at night -- even on days when the Nasdaq is falling more than 2%.
We'll be talking about all this and more on CNN this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. I'll be on with Christine Romans on "Your Money." Watch us talk stocks -- it might even help you decide what to do with your tax refund.
Reader Comment of the Week ... and see you on April 24. These are strange times for the markets. Remember the PIIGS? No? That was so 2011. Well, the G member of those once-sad peripheral European nations is back in the fixed-income market. My colleague Mark Thompson wrote about the remarkable demand for a Greek debt offering.
One of my snarkiest readers joked about how these assets may be safer havens than U.S. stocks and bonds.
Opa! Speaking of celebrating, I'm going to be off all next week and the first two days of the following week. Yay me! So Twitter radio silence begins tomorrow after the market close ... and my next Buzz column will be published in two weeks. Enjoy the silence.