Treasury bonds are rocketing, commodities are reeling and the euro-zone’s economy is contracting. That is hardly the backdrop for continued equity price appreciation. Yet the U.S. stock market has had little resistance in capturing all-time records.
Regardless of region, asset classes typically move in the same direction. It follows that one would not expect unabashed buying intrigue in U.S stocks when most European and most emerging market stocks are floundering. ¬†Similarly, one would not anticipate increasing desire for safe-haven government bonds at the same time that “riskier” ¬†U.S. equities are demonstrating unflappability. By the same token, with¬†defensive non-cyclicals (i.e., health care, utilities, staples) logging the best year-to-date sector returns, one would be hard-pressed to express enthusiasm for near-term bullishness for the S&P 500.
Even the unconventional measures seem ominous. Bearish short interest on the S&P 500 is at the lowest level in 12 months. That should be music to the ears of the contrarian investor who might want to “short-sell” the major index. Meanwhile 90% of S&P 100 stocks are above a 200-day trendline — a signal to many contrarians to consider “selling high.”
Is it possible, however, that the only things that matter are $85 billion per month in Fed money printing combined with $60 billion of investor dollars flowing into U.S. stock funds through the end of March? According to TrimTabs, the $60 billion 3-month haul was the largest at any time since 2004. Undoubtedly, that has helped fire up the buying activity. Still, the first 10 months of 2004 were entirely flat for the S&P 500, putting a dent in the idea that fund flow alone can explain the monster price gains in early 2013.
In truth, where investors should go from here is the critical question worth pondering. Earnings results and guidance may be the most disappointing in years. Technical signals scream caution. Contrarian data favor a reversal in fortunes. And nothing in the global economic news wires suggests anything more than marginal growth buoyed by emergency level stimulus by the world’s central banks. From my vantage point, the fundamental, technical, contrarian and economic data all suggest a mix of defensive assets here in the 2nd quarter… regardless of how high the S&P 500 climbs.
If you are looking to rotate into less volatile positions, or if you are looking to put cash to work on an incremental basis, or if you simply find yourself stuck in the headlights like a deer, then consider some or all of the assets in the portfolio described below. It is intended to take advantage of yield spreads with treasury bonds. It is also meant to remove some anxiety of buying near all-time peaks. It will not compete with the S&P 500 in a continuation of the raging bull. On the other hand, if the U.S. market is relatively flat or down for the remainder of Q2, then this portfolio will provide genuine comfort over the next 10 weeks.
|An ETF Portfolio For Lowering U.S. Stock Risk in the Months Ahead|
|Vanguard Dividend Growth (VIG)||10.0%|
|iShares MidCap Value (IWS)||10.0%|
|PoweShares Dnamic Pharmceuticals (PJP)||10.0%|
|iShares MSCI Minimum Volatility (EEMV)||10.0%|
|Global X Super Dividend (SDIV)||10.0%|
|SPDR Barclay Convertible (CWB)||10.0%|
|iShares Barclays 10-Year Credit Bond (CIU)||10.0%|
|PIMCO 1-5 Short Term High Yield Bond (HYS)||10.0%|
|PowerShares Emerging Market Sovereign (PCY)||10.0%|
|Money Market Cash||10.0%|