Following the market bottom, the rebound across retail industries has been robust, but a divide has emerged. Consumers’ needs and behaviors have dramatically shifted as former lifestyles were uprooted. This swift change in economics has resulted in clearly-defined sets of winners and losers among retail industries.
Health Care has been the best performing sector following mid-February’s market peak. Its robust relative performance during this bear market isn’t terribly surprising given the sector’s defensive qualities, but it has impressively outpaced other safe haven areas.
The economic outlook has turned increasingly cautionary, investors are on edge, and the search for yield persists. Because the typical defensive/high-yielding plays are generally both expensive and unappealing in our group work, we highlight several less conventional groups that may be poised to outperform.
Construction Materials moved to an Attractive rating, fueled by growth and price momentum. Surprisingly, digging into the numbers revealed it to have lower beta dynamics. Based on this, we examined the cyclical nature of the group to better understand the impact it may have on overall portfolio cyclicality.
Performance has been robust for this group, rising on a relative strength basis since the end of 2017. Its diverse mix of constituents equates to a group that, overall, is middle-of-road in terms of beta and volatility relative to other industries. These dynamics have contributed to its solid relative returns across diverging market environments of late.
The Homebuilding stocks represent another Consumer Discretionary group ranking Attractive via our GS Scores; we have held the Homebuilding group for the last year and a half. Homebuilders is an extremely rate-conscious industry group given mortgage rates’ impact on housing affordability (and thus, demand).
Although Discretionary stocks broadly underperformed during October’s market decline, prominent amongst the very top industry group performers was a rather unexpected genre of industries—brick & mortar retail. Not only did this cohort hold up during October’s tumult, but many of the underlying stocks have been posting strong returns all year.
Recently, Health Care stocks have been making headlines as the sector rallies to new all-time highs. However, when we look at the sector via Leuthold’s proprietarily-built industry group composition—which has a more realistic market-cap weighting approach—the Health Care sector has been outperforming since the end of 2017, and YTD it is the #1 performing sector in our work.
Movies & Entertainment & Broadcasting’s Group Selection (GS) Score has been steadily improving of late; it rose to High Neutral in March and pushed up to Attractive two months ago. Currently a member of the Consumer Discretionary sector, this is a less-correlated option to the many retail industries also currently ranking strongly among the Discretionary components.