High Growth, Interest Rate Relationship Weakens

High growth stocks have held their own, though interest rates recently climbed.

sumit
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Senior ETF Analyst
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Reviewed by: Sumit Roy
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Edited by: Sumit Roy

One of the most prominent themes in financial markets this year has been the rise of interest rates and the negative impact they’ve had on high growth stocks.

The ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK), a fund full of fast-growing companies, lost nearly a third of its value in a matter of weeks in January as rate worries reached a crescendo. ARKK is down more than half from its highs of a year ago, but much of those losses came after November, when interest rates really started spiking in earnest.

As can be seen from the chart below, ARKK’s free fall began that month, when the two-year Treasury yield eclipsed 0.5%. ARKK kept falling during the course of the next few months as the two-year yield breezed past 1% for the first time in two years:

 

ARKK vs 2-Yr Treasury Yield

 

All else equal, rising interest rates make growth stocks less attractive for various reasons. For instance, cash flows in the future are worth less when discounted back to the present at a higher rate, while stocks in general become less attractive relative to bonds when rates go up.

That said, over the long term, there is no one-to-one relationship between rates and any category of stocks. For shorter periods of time, correlations can and do exist (see the chart above).

But inevitably, those relationships break down. The risk-free yield is only one input into stock valuation. The equity risk premium—the excess return above the risk-free rate that investors expect from holding stocks—is often a much more significant driver of how stocks are priced. That’s especially the case in what is still, by historical standards, a low rate environment.

The equity risk premium is volatile and can be sentiment-driven, leading stock prices to overshoot on both the upside and downside.

Weakening Relationship

That may be why even though interest rates have continued to move higher over the past week or two, high growth ETFs like ARKK haven’t fallen further. Bearish sentiment has already pushed the ETF to a 1 1/2-year low, erasing much of its postpandemic gains.

In other words, investors may have already priced in—or more than priced in—today’s level of interest rates. So, it’s conceivable that rates could continue to march higher and the ETF could stand still or even go up.

That’s not a prediction; just an acknowledgment that stocks tend to overshoot in both directions and “price in” events ahead of time.

On the flip side, ARKK could just as well continue lower, particularly if the fundamentals of its holdings deteriorate. After all, interest rates aren’t everything. Underneath the hood, there is a portfolio of stocks representing real companies. The performance of those companies will be the most significant driver of the ETF long term.

 

Follow Sumit Roy on Twitter @sumitroy2

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for etf.com, where he has worked for 13 years. He creates a variety of content for the platform, including news articles, analysis pieces, videos and podcasts.

Before joining etf.com, Sumit was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. In those roles, he was responsible for most of the operations of HAI, a website dedicated to education about commodities investing.

Though he still closely follows the commodities beat, Sumit covers a much broader assortment of topics for etf.com, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of etf.com’s Talk ETFs, a popular video series that features weekly interviews with thought leaders in the ETF industry. Sumit is also co-host of Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s weekly podcast series.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing chess and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.