S&P 500 Equal Weight
The defining characteristic of last year’s bear market was the collapsing valuations of speculative growth stocks. A mania for themes such as cloud computing and disruptive innovation during 2016-2021 drove those names to fantastical valuations and bestowed market capitalizations of tens- and even hundreds of billions of dollars on such companies, many of which had yet to turn a profit.
Dividends are a cornerstone of equity investing and over the decades they have produced a significant portion of the stock market’s total return. Previous Leuthold research has identified a strong dividend influence on total returns for small and midcap companies. Looking at S&P 500 constituents, we see that dividend growers outperformed companies that had flat or declining dividends – an expected outcome. However, we also found that companies not paying dividends convincingly outpaced dividend payers. This is contrary to the results in other market segments, but the explanation for this becomes apparent in the course of our research.
It’s difficult to knock a stock market in which Small Caps and major breadth measures are making frequent new highs, however, there are performance anomalies that suggest liquidity is no longer sufficient to “float all boats.” Recent underperformance of the Equal Weighted S&P 500 is a case in point, at the same time, the current dichotomy in market breadth pales in comparison to the 1999-2000 episode.
Last week’s piece challenged the now popular view that new highs for the Russell 2000 are a decisively bullish factor for the stock market in the near term. To our surprise, we found that market returns during periods of well-defined Small Cap leadership are significantly lower than when Smalls are laggards.