ASX tech shares are in a world of pain today. We are seeing substantial sell-offs in most of the dominant tech shares on the market as we wade through Friday trading. Take Pro Medicus Limited (ASX: PME). Its shares are leading the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) losses today, down a hefty 8.53% today to $42.03. Or Afterpay Ltd (ASX: APT), which is selling off with a 5.85% loss to $93.59 a share. Xero Limited (ASX: XRO) has lost 2.41% today, whilst WiseTech Global Ltd (ASX: WTC) is down 1.75%. Bucking the trend is Zip Co Ltd (AX: Z1P), whose shares are actually in the green today, up 1.4%. As well as Appen Ltd (ASX: APX), which is enjoying a hefty 5.3% gain today. Saying that Appen dipped to a multi-year low yesterday after a 20% sell-off, so that’s not as good as it seems for Appen shareholders.
So why such a brutal sell-off today for ASX tech shares?
Well, it appears to have been somewhat sparked by a savage sell-off overnight for certain tech shares on the US markets. Shopify Inc (NYSE: SHOP) was down 2.6% last night. Square Inc (NYSE: SQ) lost 3.4%, while Palantir Technologies Inc (NYSE: PLTR) lost 5%, and Coinbase Global Inc (NASDAQ: COIN) shed close to 6%.
So what’s going on here?
ASX tech shares in savage sell-off
Well, it could be a result of renewed inflation concerns. Inflation has been back at the centre of the investing world of late, given the robust economic recovery that many countries, including the United States and Australia, are currently enjoying. Even Warren Buffett mentioned inflation in his recent annual meeting for Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A)(NYSE: BRK.B).
Buffett didn’t mince words, saying: “We’re seeing very substantial inflation… It’s very interesting. We’re raising prices. People are raising prices to us and it’s being accepted”.
So why are these kinds of ASX tech shares feeling the pain today, while at the same time the ASX 200 is rising? Well, with inflation usually comes interest rate rises. And these companies are by far the most vulnerable to that paradigm, should it occur. That’s because they are still well within their ‘growth phases’. These tech companies typically have a lot of debt and very little present cash flow. That’s fine of course, they are investing for future growth and cash flow.
But right now, with interest rates to near-zero, debt is essentially free. If inflation comes and rates rise, it will no longer be free. That might be what has gotten the market worried about these ASX tech shares today.