The Energy sector emerged as the top performer for January, a nice respite after a terrible 2020—but not exactly a good omen. Unlike in horse racing—where the concept of “early speed” has significant predictive power—the early leader in the sector-performance sweepstakes hasn’t reliably followed through in the last 30 years.
Our Very Long Term (VLT) Momentum algorithm has been a very good “confirmatory” market tool over the years, especially at the onset of a new cyclical bull market. But VLT has proven to be of little to no value in navigating this year’s gyrations. VLT’s latest flip-flops reinforce our view that the market leaderboard is set to be rearranged.
Our VLT Momentum algorithm was driven into oversold territory for at least a few months in all prior postwar bears. It didn’t happen yet this spring, which implies that the “grieving process” was neither deep enough nor long-lasting enough to set the stage for anything like a repeat of last decade’s bull. Most of our valuation work says exactly the same thing.
At October’s close, a long-term BUY signal was triggered on the Russell 2000. The fact that some market segments are triggering “oversold BUYS” when blue chips are at record highs speaks volumes about the internal disparities that have developed during the last few years. The Russell BUY signal is not inconsistent with our belief that the action since the January 2018 peak remains part of a lengthy cyclical topping process.
Small Caps came tantalizingly close to activating a major VLT BUY signal in September, with the Russell 2000 closing less than a half percent below the trigger level. A new bull signal from this indicator wouldn’t “fit” into our market and economic narrative, but we won’t sweep it under the rug if it occurs.
The Major Trend Index has remained in neutral territory during the last several weeks of upside action, suggesting there remain significant fundamental and technical shortcomings beneath it all. But this precarious MTI stance didn’t preclude us from acting on a new bullish reading for Emerging Market equities at the end of April.