Looks like we’ll get to test the impact of rising interest rates on tech stocks

Inflation in the United States came in a little over expectations: The consumer price index rose 7.5% last year, the largest figure in some decades. In response, expectations for monetary tightening in America are also running hot.

And as interest rates rise, there’s an expectation that safer assets will become more attractive, and more speculative assets less so. Closer to home, it’s a common perspective that rising rates will lead to a generally bearish climate for public tech valuations. Backing the theory is the fact that in light of the hot inflation print this morning, stocks are down sharply in pre-market trading, with tech stocks leading the flop.

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Not everyone shares the anticipation that rates will ding tech valuations, it’s worth noting, but it’s a sufficiently standard view that it’s nice that the market has set up a natural experiment for us.

Whether it’s five rate hikes in 2022 — or four, or six — the price of money is going to go up this year sharply, at least in the United States. Around the world, we’re seeing a more mixed bag, with monetary policy loosening in China¬†and Europe seeming set to hold course at present rates.

But the U.S. market for tech listings, major technology companies, and startup investment is sufficiently critical to the global markets that what happens here will impact the rest of the world. The expectation of rapid-fire monetary tightening is pretty damn important.

What’s ahead

Briefly, here’s how we got to today’s tech prices and ebullient market: In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, governments lowered the cost of money through rock-bottom interest rates, among other monetary mechanisms for giving economies a boost. The low cost of money meant that traditionally safer assets like bonds became less attractive than before, as yields were very low — even negative in some cases.