This investor predicted the dot-com bust. He thinks AI is a bubble that will ‘deflate’

This investor predicted the dot-com bust. He thinks AI is a bubble that will ‘deflate’

Mar 14,2024

A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here. You can listen to an audio version of the newsletter by clicking the same link.

New York (CNN) — Is the artificial intelligence boom on Wall Street a bubble primed to burst or the real deal? That’s the question investors have wrestled with since the Magnificent Seven tech stocks began turbocharging a powerful market rally last year.

Jeremy Grantham, the investor famous for predicting the dot-com crash in 2000 and the financial crisis in 2008, has an answer Wall Street won’t like: He believes that AI is a bubble that could start letting out some air.

“A new bubble within a bubble like this, even one limited to a handful of stocks, is totally unprecedented,” he wrote in a Monday blog post. “The best guess is still that this second Investment bubble — in AI — will at least temporarily deflate.”

Tech stocks surged to eye-popping heights in 2023, and that story has continued this year. Monster gains in shares of tech giants, particularly US chipmaker Nvidia, have propelled all three major indexes to all-time highs. The S&P 500 index on Tuesday logged its 17th record high close of 2024.

Grantham, who is co-founder of Boston-based GMO LLC, isn’t buying it. “The long-run prospects for the broad US stock market here look as poor as almost any other time in history,” he wrote.

One reason he cites for his skepticism is that history suggests the market is overdue for a sharp pullback.

Stocks were pummeled in 2022, with the S&P 500 logging a double-digit percentage loss after the Federal Reserve began raising rates aggressively to bring down inflation. But the stock market had seen strong returns in the year leading up to those losses, as near-zero interest rates gave firms easy access to cash, a bevy of companies went public and investors took on more risk in their portfolios.

Grantham says that the exuberance showed all the classic signs of a bubble about to burst. While that began to happen during 2022’s painful sell-off, it was interrupted by the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 that jumpstarted today’s tech-heavy rally, he says.

But Granthan believes that was a pause, not a stop, and that the sell-off will eventually continue. Not only that, he sees an economic downturn on the horizon.

It “seems likely that the after-effects of interest rate rises and the ridiculous speculation of 2020 to 2021 and now (November 2023 through today) will eventually end in a recession,” he wrote on Tuesday.

Still, the notorious market bear sees some areas of opportunity in the stock market. He recommends that investors take a look at quality stocks, which he defines as shares of companies with a high, dependable return on equity and a strong balance sheet. Grantham also noted that he likes shares of companies involved in areas like energy and metals.

“Raw materials [are] finite — believe it or not! — getting scarcer, and therefore certain to rise in price,” he wrote. “They are far and away the most diversifying sector.”

BP and UAE suspend $2 billion gas deal in Israel as Gaza war drags on

BP and an oil company owned by the United Arab Emirates have shelved talks to buy a 50% stake in Israel’s leading natural gas producer, judging the $2 billion deal too risky as the war in Gaza rages, reports my colleague Hanna Ziady.

NewMed Energy said Wednesday that all three companies had agreed to “suspend discussions” on the deal “due to the uncertainty created by the external environment.”

BP (BP) and Abu Dhabi’s state oil company Adnoc had “reiterated… interest in the proposed transaction,” it added in a statement, without detailing the conditions under which talks might resume.

“There can be no certainty that discussions will resume or that an agreement will be reached in the future, nor as to the terms of an agreement should one be reached,” NewMed Energy said.

BP declined to comment beyond confirming the content of the NewMed statement. Adnoc declined to comment. NewMed Energy’s shares fell as much as 7% in Tel Aviv.

The development highlights the impact the war in Gaza is having on companies doing business in the Middle East. Several Western brands, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, have faced boycotts in the region by customers who perceive them as supporting or having ties to Israel’s war in Gaza.

Read more here.

China says US TikTok ban ‘an act of bullying’ that would backfire

China has described a potential TikTok ban as “an act of bullying” that would backfire on America, report CNN’s Nectar Gan, Marc Stewart and Wayne Chang.

The comments, made by China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday, came hours before a House of Representatives vote on legislation that could force TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the popular short video app to an American company — or face being barred in the US, where it boasts over 170 million users.

“Even though the US has not found evidence on how TikTok endangers its national security, it has never stopped going after TikTok,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the ministry, told CNN Wednesday at a news conference in Beijing.

Wang accused the US of “resorting to acts of bullying” when it could not succeed in fair competition, saying such practice would disrupt market operations, undermine investor confidence and sabotage the global economic order.

“This will eventually backfire on the US itself,” he said.

US officials and lawmakers have long voiced concerns that the Chinese government could compel TikTok’s parent ByteDance to hand over data collected from US users. They also fear that the app could serve as a tool for Beijing to spread propaganda, misinformation or influence Americans.

Cybersecurity experts say that the national security concerns surrounding TikTok remain a hypothetical — albeit troubling — scenario. US officials have not publicly presented evidence that the Chinese government has accessed the user data of US TikTok users, an outcome that lawmakers say their bill is intended to prevent.

Read more here.

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