Cyclical Bull Market
The bull and bear labels can be dangerous to stock market operators, so much so that famed speculator Jesse Livermore is said to have abandoned them in favor of softer terminology: “Lines of least resistance.” We aren’t about to ditch the old labels, or even our collection of bull and bear bookends.
We think the odds are better than even that the September 20th S&P 500 high will stand as the stock market high for 2018, and perhaps also as the high for a historic event begun back in 2009. We’re well-prepared for that possibility, with the Leuthold Core now positioned today with net equity exposure of just 37%.
The setback from the January 26th market peak represents the ninth correction of 7% or more since 2009, the most ever recorded during a single cyclical bull market.
We don’t think the current stock market upleg is over.
Today may feel different, but it isn’t. The past 13 months’ trading action in the U.S. is the second example of this phenomenon in the current (2009-to-date) cyclical bull market. We focus on 11 previous episodes for perspective. Plus we clarify recent thoughts on interest rates and stock market valuations.
We’ve frequently mentioned the two-faced nature of thematic leadership during the current bull market. Filtering out the minor swings, Phase One lasted from March 2009 through February 2011 and was dominated by low quality, high beta and cyclical stocks.
We’ve written before about retail investors’ tendency to “conflate” stock market action with movements in the underlying economy. Misunderstanding this interrelationship generally causes the public to liquidate stocks when the economy is weak, only to ultimately buy them back when the economic recovery is obvious to all.
The stock market is maybe half or two-thirds of the way through a secular bull move beginning in 1974. But the current cyclical bull market is no longer so healthy. Mutual fund mania continues - factoring in the May ICI statistics over the last twelve months, net cash flow into equity oriented mutual funds is now up 10.8% of assets, equaling the previous high-water marks of 1955-1957.