Narrowing market leadership since April made us wonder whether the market could be due for a pullback. While a relatively small number of stocks powered the index to new highs, many small- and mid-capitalization names lagged over this period. As recently as mid-August, for example, fewer than 50 percent of the names listed on the NYSE traded above their 200-day moving average. Today, almost two-thirds of NYSE-listed stocks are in an uptrend, the highest proportion since April.
While the risks of today’s low-volatility stock market are clear, we continue to believe the next sell-off in the broader market will be a correction, not the beginning of a new bear market. Look for a rotation out of the growth-oriented fare and into cyclical and value groups.
The so-called FAANG stocks–Facebook, Amazon.com, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet–are up an average of 28.8 percent in 2017 compared to a 7.5 percent gain for the S&P 500. These large-cap names have paced the index’s gains so far this year. Should any or all of these stocks falter, the S&P 500 could quickly lose altitude.
Last week, the S&P 500 endured its worst one-day selloff since the immediate aftermath of Britain's surprise vote to exit the EU last summer. Although the S&P 500 gave up only 1.25 percent of its value yesterday, the decline felt more serious because the market has exhibited low volatility and traded within a tight range over the past 12 months.
OPEC's Nov. 30 meeting yielded an accord to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day, sending the price of West Texas Intermediate 9 percent higher on Wednesday and 3.5 percent higher on Thursday. After this exuberance subsides, the market's focus will shift to whether OPEC members honor their agreement and a potential recovery in US oil production.
Gold prices initially surged on the news of Trump's triumph, but the yellow metal sold off in subsequent trading sessions to about $1,200 per ounce. An uptick in economic growth and inflation from fiscal expansion would take pressure off the Federal Reserve to be the sole engine of economic growth, which could result in two potential outcomes for gold.
What investors should expect over the coming months: Abrupt swings to the upside for the S&P 500 within the context of a bear-market correction, further downside in oil prices in the first quarter, weakness in the US economy and fewer rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.
Technical indicators from the last four bear markets to ravage US equities suggest that a correction of at least 20 percent could be in store for the S&P 500. At this juncture, the risk of a US recession remains low, which should limit the coming bear market's severity and duration. However, we'll continue to monitor our favorite economic indicators for deterioration.
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