The Importance of Analyzing Securities Beyond Questions of Sector or Value Versus Growth

Written by: George Bonne , Executive Director of Equity Factor Research, MSCI


FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) make up nearly 40% of the NASDAQ 100 index, and smaller but significant weights in many others. Commonly grouped as tech stocks or growth companies, it seems reasonable to assume they share many similar characteristics. However, when examined through the lens of performance-driving factors, their characteristics are far from homogeneous.

The table below displays the MSCI FaCS characteristics of the FAANG stocks as of July 27, 2018, as well as the exposures of the MSCI USA Technology Index (for reference). FaCS measures the degree to which a company or portfolio tilts, or is “exposed,” to factors that have been shown to be important drivers of portfolio risk and return.

Breaking these big tech firms into smaller pieces through factor exposures shows significant variability. For example:

  • Quality (a measure of the strength, efficiency and stability of a company’s operating performance and use of capital): Exposure ranged from -0.05 for Amazon to 0.68 for Google.
  • Momentum (price performance over the last 12 months excluding the most recent month): While all the FAANG stocks showed a positive exposure to momentum, they varied from the very-near neutral 0.05 for Google to +2.53 for Netflix.
  • Value (price relative to book value, earnings, cash flow and other measures): Apple was the only FAANG with a positive exposure.
  • Growth (historical earnings and revenue growth plus forecast earnings growth): Apple had a slight negative exposure, while Netflix had a very large one.
  • The largest differences can be seen when we use MSCI FaCS to measure the exposures of Apple and Netflix. While low size exposure was equal between the two, the other factors varied substantially.


    Also important to note is that factor exposures have varied not only across seemingly similar stocks, but have also been quite dynamic and changed over time for individual companies. In the exhibit below we take Apple – which saw its stock price rise on strong second-quarter earnings even as other FAANGs, such as Facebook, fell – as an example. Our analysis shows select MSCI FaCS exposures over time, focusing on the quality, momentum, value and growth factor groups for legibility purposes.

    As we can see, in the early 2000s, as Apple sought to redefine itself, it had negative exposures to all four factor groups at times. It was relatively expensive, had relatively low earnings and revenue growth and relatively weak and inefficient operating performance. After the success of their new products in the mid-2000s, almost everything surged – growth, profitability, stock price and valuation ratios. In the last few years, growth has slowed, valuations have come down significantly, operating performance has strengthened and they have been more conservative in use of capital.

    Breaking the FAANGs into bite-sized pieces revealed the importance of analyzing securities and portfolios beyond questions of sector or value versus growth. These unique factor fingerprints offered improved understanding of critical drivers of portfolio risk and return.

    FURTHER READING: Do Factors Stand up to FAANG?