Cathie Wood, Down Big Lately, Answers Her Investors, and Critics

Text size

ARK Invest CEO Cathie Wood says too many funds have crowded into the FAANG stocks.
Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg

Opinions on Cathie Wood run strong. “She knows nothing more than anyone else,” one reader all-capped me in an email this past week.

I think value investors have been waiting so long for a momentum-stock comeuppance that some are now trying to remember the moves to their end-zone dances.

“All I have to do is watch the TV for a little while or go on to Twitter and absolutely I hear it,” Wood tells me. She’s founder and CEO of ARK Investment Management, whose flagship ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund (ticker: ARKK) has lost 50% in a year—and made 250% over the past five years.

If you’re asking me whether you should buy the fund, you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t ask me, I mean. I’m a chicken and the fund is rocket fuel. If you made a Venn diagram of everything Wood has ever bought, and everything that I might be brave enough to consider, you’d find tractor maker Deere (DE) where the circles overlap.

Many of ARK Innovation’s holdings are wonderful companies trading at valuations that make my knees knock, like Tesla (TSLA) and Roku (ROKU) . One or two sit at big markdowns but have business models that jangle my nerves, like Robinhood Markets (HOOD). And then there’s Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), which I like, except for the parts about Bitcoin and trust.

Many investors bought near the top, because they piled in around the end of 2020, when the fund had stuffed the rest of Wall Street into a locker by returning 153%. They seem to be sticking around. Assets under management have plunged from $28 billion to $13 billion, but that’s mostly due to performance, not outflows.

I don’t get all the anti-ARK chest-thumping. Wood has a long record of piling on the risk with big stakes in speculative, ambitiously priced growers, for better or worse.

She shares her thoughts freely online, posting ARK’s investment cases for its holdings. New ones are coming soon for Coinbase Global (COIN), Teladoc Health (TDOC), Roku, and Zoom Video Communications (ZM), she says.

I asked Wood what she has been telling investors about the downturn in many of her holdings, which seems linked to expectations that the Federal Reserve will aggressively raise interest rates to combat inflation. She is unconvinced that will happen.

“We might get a March increase,” she says. “In this midterm election year, I don’t think we’ll get another one.” Inflation is mostly a supply problem, and falling demand will soon fix that, she reckons.

Wood focuses on companies in fields like artificial intelligence, energy storage, genomic sequencing, and blockchain technology that she says can increase revenue by 25% or more a year.

“Think Amazon in the early 2000s,” she says. She believes that such companies will ultimately weather downturns better than mature growth companies like the FAANGs, which she doesn’t own.

Speaking of which: Wood says growth funds have come to all look like each other and the broad stock indexes, because they have the same mature companies as top holdings. “We are the new Nasdaq,” she says. “This is the kind of portfolio that in the early ’90s people gravitated toward because it looks nothing like anything else they own.”

One way investors use ARK Innovation is to add a little pizazz to a more mundane portfolio of blue chips and bonds.

Matthew Tuttle has come up with another use. “If I think we’re going into a correction or a bear market, I’d rather short Zoom, Teladoc and DocuSign , not Apple , Microsoft , and Google,” he says. To that end, he has created the Tuttle Capital Short Innovation ETF (SARK), which might sound like it invests in shoe lifts, but in fact bets against Wood. It has quickly become the biggest fund at Tuttle’s firm, with $300 million in assets.

Tuttle says he will soon launch funds that bet against other people, but he can’t say whom, and he’s open to ideas. I pitched one that bets against this column. “I forgot to mention that. That’s filing next week,” he says.

Wood is still way into Tesla, and unmoved by Ford Motor ’s (F) electric push. “Ford’s shares soar to 22-year highs because of electric, when 98% of the revenue base is gas-powered,” she says. “And that’s where we’re going to see some big problems.”

When Spotify Technology (SPOT) tumbled 17% on Thursday, she took it in stride, calling the company a sleeper with a strong hand in podcasts. “Think Netflix [NFLX] eight to 10 years ago,” she says. Her highest-conviction holding? Zoom, which she says will be an enterprise communications winner, not just a stay-at-home stock.

OK, so Wood isn’t shy about talking up her holdings, or making comparisons to history’s great growth stocks. The same could be said of many fund managers. What couldn’t be said of quite as many of them is that after a yearlong tumble, they would still be fielding questions instead of going quiet.

Wood says that seeds were planted during the tech and telecom bubble that have been germinating for 25 years, and are now starting to flourish. “We are in exponential growth trajectories for 14 different technologies, and what are investors doing?” she says. “They’re running for the hills.”

Not me. I was already in the hills, so technically it was more of a hunker than a run. I’m not predicting the next move for ARK shares, or recommending that holders double down, but I see no reason to root against the company, either.

Investors deserve spicy options, and for three-quarters of a percentage point in yearly fees, Wood gives them all the heat they can handle.

Write to Jack Hough at Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his Barron’s Streetwise podcast.

Jamie Dimon says he no longer uses the word “cryptocurrency”

Previous article

Palantir: Commercial Initiatives Should Start Bearing Fruit Shortly, Says One Analyst

Next article

You may also like


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in News