Like many years, 2020 is one in which an investor who was armed with a perfect economic forecast would have been befuddled by stock market action. Who would have imagined that passive equity investors (including many posing as Wall Street strategists) would be so well-rewarded for ignoring the economic downturn?
With May Day marches and demonstrations cancelled, the workers of the world have one less opportunity to remind us of the ever-widening wealth gap and the evils of the “Top 1%.” It’s a shame, because this was the year that we active managers would have stood shoulder to shoulder with those protesters voicing our own contempt for the “Top 1%”… of the S&P 500.
We’ve discussed market analogies with the year 1999 at length, and will give it a rest for awhile—in part because parallels to the year 2000 have cropped up! In the first five weeks of 2020, the NASDAQ 100 has already outperformed the NYSE Composite by about 7%, while in the first five weeks of 2000 the spread was 8%.
The 1999 leadership parallels we discussed in the latest Green Book remain intact—U.S. over foreign, Growth over Value, and Large over Small. Small Caps have given up most of the “beta bounce” enjoyed in the first two months off the December low, with one Small Cap measure—the Russell Microcap Index (the bottom 1000 of the Russell 2000)—undercutting last year’s relative strength low and those of 2011 and 2016.
This year we’ve written several notes surrounding the Consumer Discretionary sector’s prominence among our top Group Selection (GS) Scores. This pattern persisted for a fifth consecutive month in April.
Emerging Market stocks are probably the cheapest equity subgroup in the world today, trading at 13.0x our 5-Year Normalized EPS estimate—much lower than that of foreign Developed Markets (17.6x) and the S&P 500 (21.3x). But, EM stocks have languished near these valuation levels for almost three years.