Whew! Stocks were all over the place in 2018.
Things were going well in late summer, but by fall the wheels were coming off. In December, the market saw more days with high volatility than it did in all of 2017. By year-end, the S&P 500 had dropped 6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq had fallen 4 percent.
Most Seattle-area tech companies — and Bay Area firms with a large Seattle presence — saw their share prices sink. Here’s a look at how they made out over the course of 2018.
Microsoft finished the year as the country’s most valuable company for the first time since 2002. Both Microsoft and Amazon were battered by the stock rout that struck in October, but they nevertheless posted double-digit gains in 2018 — thanks in no small part to the cloud.
Microsoft stock continues to fall today, down more than two percent, giving the maker of Xbox and Azure a market value of $756 billion.
The giants of Silicon Valley fared much worse. Facebook’s stock dropped 25 percent amid intense public and regulatory scrutiny, and both Google and Apple ended the year down.
And Apple’s woes continued on Wednesday as CEO Tim Cook warned of a revenue shortfall in the first quarter. The stock is getting whacked today, dropping more than 8 percent. Apple’s market value now stands at $685 billion — well off its August highs when the company topped $1 trillion in value.
It was a very good year to sell software to businesses. Data visualization company Tableau saw shares rise more than 50 percent. So did IT business management firm Apptio, which got a huge boost when it was announced that Vista Equity Partner was taking the company private in a $1.9 billion deal. San Francisco-based Salesforce gained 30 percent. Smartsheet, the maker of work management software, was up 14 percent on the year. It priced its IPO at $15 per share in April 2018, raising $150 million.
Biotech companies were hammered in 2018. Shares of Aptevo Therapeutics, Immune Design, Atossa Genetics and CTI BioPharma each lost more than half of their value in 2018. Amid the wreckage, cancer diagnostic company NanoString Technologies rose 94 percent. Seattle Genetics also ended the year slightly up.
Funko isn’t really a tech company, but its significantly geeky, so we included on our list. And its performance warrants mention as the region’s most-improved stock of the year. The toymaker secured licensing deals with Disney and the NFL for its line of Pop! figurines, and the company’s stock finally redeemed itself after a brutal IPO in 2017, rising 115 percent last year.
Real estate rivals Zillow and Redfin both ended the year in the red, down 28 and 53 percent, respectively. The primary culprits: Investors are concerned that a housing market slowdown is in the works, and rising interest rates aren’t helping. In the hunt for better margins, both companies have launched programs to buy and sell homes directly.
T-Mobile’s stock fell 23 percent throughout 2018, whereas shares of competitors Sprint and AT&T ended the year close to even. T-Mobile is still pushing ahead with its planned $26 billion merger with Sprint, but the government shutdown is reportedly putting the brakes on the regulatory review process for the time being.
Elsewhere in tech, the stocks of laser companies nLight and Microvision lost more than a third of their value. Impinj and Bsquare, which provide solutions for the internet of things, saw similarly large share price declines.
What’s ahead for 2019?
Year-ahead forecasts from major investment banks compiled by Bloomberg point to a choppy 2019 for stocks, but not necessarily a bear market. Many analysts expect earnings growth to slow sharply and volatility to remain high.
Analysts still see high-growth tech stocks as influential drivers of both returns and risk.
“An important question for investors is whether growth in this sector will remain this strong, with the emergence of new areas of focus such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence,” analysts at TS Lombard wrote in a note.