Inside The Stock Market ...trends, cross-currents, and outlook
In late January we speculated how long it would take for the S&P 500’s bloated valuations to reach more reasonable levels. The S&P 500 now trades back where it was in January and the seven-month break included some of the best growth rates most have ever seen. We found ourselves asking: Did chubby Mr. Market shed any pounds as he pedaled away on his stationary bike?
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.
We’ve been reticent to draw links between the current bull and that of the late 1990s; we felt the last phase of the earlier episode was so extraordinary it was unlikely we’d see anything similar again in our lifetimes. But statistical parallels are on the rise, including the attempt by the S&P 500 to recoup its 2018 correction losses.
A few clients pointed out that the longest-ever recovery from an intermediate correction (Apr. 1994–Feb. 1995) became the base from which the S&P 500 would eventually triple over the next five years. We’re not equipped to address that possibility in an objective fashion, so we’ll let you be the judge.
The S&P 500 is on the verge of reversing its early-2018 losses and, if achieved, it would initially be accompanied by six “Red Flags”—which are based on key market indexes failing to record new highs in the 21 trading days preceding a new S&P 500 high. The last time the tally reached “six” was in May 2015—occurring at the final high before an S&P 500 loss of nearly 15% over the ensuing nine months.
To summarize (and oversimplify), here are some of the frequent client responses to our prevailing “cautiously bearish” stance:
Trade wars or trade tensions, quietly started in 2017, hadn’t captured the market’s attention until early March this year—as demonstrated through a review of internet keyword search data of “Trade War” and “Tariff.” We present our Trade War thematic group which captures U.S. companies that could suffer the most from a trade war between the Trump administration and the rest of the world.
Yes, bulls and bears now hold their respective positions for the same reason—i.e., the U.S. economy is exceptionally strong. The stock market is accommodating this rare bipartisanship with sufficient reason to support either position.
The nine-year stock market “party” may not yet be over, but it’s getting pretty late.
The Supply/Demand category carries the smallest weighting among the five factor groupings in the Major Trend Index, and this weighting is further diminished by the fact that its components rarely line up in a way which loudly proclaims that an “accumulation” or a “distribution” phase is underway. Today is just another of those typically inconclusive times.
Early this year we chatted with the retired founder of a Midwest investment management and research firm. After living and breathing markets for six decades, this bearded and iconoclastic character had avoided financial publications, Bloomberg, CNBC, and the like for more than a year.