The number “88″ means a lot of different things to different people around the world.¬†For some, it expresses the¬†notion that the universe is both infinitely large and infinitely small. Others¬†see it as a¬†message of eternal love.¬†Meanwhile,¬†Chinese culture recognizes “8″ as its luckiest¬†number, with “88″¬†symbolizing even greater fortunes.
However, 8/8 is a rather dismal date for the investing public.¬†Investors in U.S. stocks will remember it as the ugliest finish to a¬†trading session in¬†2011. (At least so far.)
Granted, there were¬†several occasions in August when¬†the S&P 500¬†tested its¬†lowest closing price, including¬†8/10, 8/19 and 8/22. As of now, though,¬†8/8 is the bottom of the¬†calendar year barrel.
For the time being, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe appears to hold the keys to stock market fortunes or misfortunes. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a look at how the different U.S. economic segments are faring since the lowest ebb.
|Sector ETFs: Performers and Non-Performers Since 8/8||¬†||¬†|
|¬†||¬†||¬†||¬†||¬†||% Gain||¬†||Approx % Off 2011 High|
|Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)||¬†||10.3%||¬†||-1.9%|
|iShares Dow Jones Telecom (IYZ)||¬†||7.5%||¬†||-16.6%|
|Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)||¬†||7.4%||¬†||-10.7%|
|Consumer Staples Select SPDR (XLP)||¬†||4.7%||¬†||-6.8%|
|Consumer Discretion Select SPDR (XLY)||¬†||6.5%||¬†||-12.6%|
|Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)||¬†||5.3%||¬†||-18.1%|
|Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)||¬†||5.0%||¬†||-18.4%|
|Industrials Select Sector SPDR (XLI)||¬†||4.7%||¬†||-20.0%|
|Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)||¬†||4.7%||¬†||-11.1%|
|Financials Select Sector SPDR (XLF)||¬†||2.4%||¬†||-26.7%|
|S&P 500 SPDR Trust (SPY)||¬†||¬†||4.9%||¬†||-13.3%|
It should come as no surprise that economically sensitive, cyclical sectors are further from their 2011 bull market highs than less sensitive, non-cyclical segments. Indeed, most corrections and bears begin with relative strength from the non-cyclicals.
On the other hand, it is somewhat surprising to¬†discover that¬†3 out of 4 non-cyclical sectors have risen more off the August 8 lows than the rest of the cyclical segments. You simply don’t/won’t get genuine bullishness when late economic cycle “faves” like utilities and health care receive the¬†lion’s share of capital appreciation.
In addition, it is particularly¬†troublesome to have the¬†lowest-beta sector in SPDR Select¬†Utilities (XLU) performing the best, while the¬†highest-beta sector in SPDR Select Financials (XLF)¬†has the weakest performance. One simply can’t put much faith in any rally off the August lows until this dynamic changes.
Taking “stock” of all ten segments, we see that XLF as well as SPDR Select Industrials (XLI) have already hit bear market percentages.¬†In contrast, XLU and SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP) are the only 2 segments¬†that are less than 10% off bull market highs.
It is true that¬†any combination of factors could spark a¬†sustainable rally.¬†Germany/France/Finland could¬†make some headway in¬†their handling of weaker¬†euro-zone members. U.S. corporations could hire¬†far more than markets expect.¬†China¬†might declare victory in its battle against inflation. October earnings could blow away expectations. And investors¬†might actually¬†recognize the¬†reality¬†that corporate dividends from thriving corporations deserve more attention than downgraded, lower-yielding¬†10-year treasuries.
That said, I still recommend a lighter-than-normal allocation to equities. And if you’re planning to wade into the deep end, don’t forget your life jacket — stop-limit loss orders¬†on those “riskier” positions.
Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert¬†is a web log (‚ÄĚblog‚ÄĚ) that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial, Inc, and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs, mutual funds, and/or any investment asset mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial, Inc. or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert web site. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert disclosure details here.