Chart Of The Week
Our ongoing research into the relative performance of active vs. passive styles reveals that market conditions play a significant role in the active/passive return cycle. We identified a set of metrics that describe the market conditions we believe influence which management style is more likely to outperform. This note updates our data through March 2021.
While we’re still squeezing into our pants and fretting over our newest chin, the S&P 500’s three-largest firms have been shedding their COVID-weight gain at a measured pace for months. Whereas most people drop the pounds through vigorous activity, these firms have managed to slim down just by standing still.
Earnings releases (ER) are normally accompanied by large stock-price movements, either to the upside or downside.
Here, we computed the percentage of companies that registered a large move in their stock price on their ER day in the trailing three-month window (500 basis points up OR down). In order to normalize for non ER-day volatility, we computed the percentage of all companies that registered a significant price move on any day during the same period. The difference between the two is shown in Chart 1.
In the latest Green Book, we noted that Producer Price Inflation does not usually become a challenge for the stock market until its annual rate breaks above 4.0%. The day that comment was published, the year-over-year gain in the March PPI for Finished Goods spiked to 6.0%, thanks mostly to the well-celebrated COVID-19 anniversary-effect.
Given that we've recently passed the one-year anniversary of the bear-market bottom of March 2020, we thought it might be interesting to apply our annual Dream/Nightmare exercise to periods following bear-market lows; the idea here being that a major market bottom may serve as a “reset” for new industry trends.
In our mid-month Of Special Interest, “Valuation Extremes: Here Be Dragons,” we examined valuation outliers as a measure of market sentiment. The hypothesis was that exuberance is reflected in investors’ willingness to hold stocks priced on an aggressive “vision” of the future; companies that are either habitually unprofitable or trade at a Price/Sales ratio above 15x.
High growth rates, innovation, and disruption are defining traits of the companies that have powered the market to recent highs, and the ARK Innovators Fund (ARKK) is an example of today’s enthusiasm for visionary growth stocks. Recent returns and growth in AUM have been nothing short of spectacular, and ARKK has become symbolic of today’s style of new-era growth investing.
Presidents and the popular press have become obsessed with performance over the “first 100 days” in office. That prompted us to see if there have been any persistent stock market effects related to this 100-day window. There are many ways to slice the data, and the more we sliced it, the fewer the observations.
Pfizer’s November 9th announcement of an effective COVID-19 vaccine triggered the most extensive one-day rotation in style factors we have ever seen. Investors flipped from Large Growth—the market’s dominating style over the past few years—and found new friends in Value and Small Cap. This rotation continued through November, to the point that Value and Small Cap each had their best single-month return in 30 years.
Even after watershed events COVID-19 and MMT, some things never change.
Next year will begin like almost every one of the past dozen years, with economists and strategists expecting bond yields to rise.
Unlike most of those years, though, there are several measures of “cyclical pressures” that would seem to give them a good chance of being right. The best-known among these might be the “Copper/Gold Ratio,” popularized by DoubleLine’s Jeffrey Gundlach, which suggests 10-Yr. Treasury yields should be around double their current level (Chart 1).
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%.
Consumer Price Inflation of 1.2% for the twelve months through October remains way below the Fed’s long-time 2% objective, which is nothing new. But a first step in getting inflation to eventually run a little bit “hot” (the Fed’s new objective) is to break the long-term disinflationary psychology among consumers and investors, and that is clearly happening. In fact, based on the excellent “Inflation Surprise” Indexes published monthly by Citi, the U.S. is now the world’s inflationary hotspot!
If Momentum and Growth investors thought they were escaping 2020 unscathed, they learned otherwise on Monday. Pfizer’s promising news about a COVID-19 vaccine was met with universal excitement and investors rearranging portfolios—taking gains in long-term winners and plowing into beaten-down cyclical stocks.