A new market high that is not confirmed by the stocks of companies that “move the goods” is a warning signal. We reviewed the Transports’ action in all years the S&P 500 accomplished a 12-month high during the month of July, like it did this year.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average has recently notched fresh all-time highs. Following a sizable relative performance dip earlier in the year, the Transports’ relative strength has recovered and moved to new 2020 highs (Chart 1). Still, compared to the broad market, the index’s YTD return appears fairly unremarkable, outpacing the S&P 500 by about 3%.
Small Caps lagged during the bounce off the March lows before a late-April spurt briefly pulled them ahead of the S&P 500. Still, considering that Russell 2000 losses were so much steeper than the S&P 500’s (-43% versus -33%), we would have expected something better.
While stock market action YTD has not been quite as “uniform,” the hallmarks of an imminent bull market top are simply not present. The bullish portents apply to intermediate term results, however, they cannot rule out any short-term setbacks (which can appear with no tip-off from breadth or leadership measures).