Scott Martindaleby Scott Martindale
President, Sabrient Systems LLC

You might not have realized it given the technical consolidation in March, but Q1 2019 ended up giving the S&P 500 its best Q1 performance of the new millennium, and the best quarterly performance (of any quarter) since Q3 2009. Investors could be forgiven for thinking the powerful rally from Christmas Eve through February was nothing more than a proverbial “dead cat bounce,” given all the negative news about a global economic slowdown, the still-unresolved trade skirmish with China, a worsening Brexit, reductions to US corporate earnings estimates, and the Fed’s sudden about-face on rate hikes. But instead, stocks finished Q1 with a flourish and now appear to be poised to take another run at all-time highs. The S&P 500, for example, entered Q2 less than 4% below its all-time high.

Overall, we still enjoy low unemployment, rising wages, and strong consumer sentiment, as well as a supportive Fed (“Don’t fight the Fed!”) keeping rates “lower for longer” (and by extension, debt servicing expenses and discount rates for equity valuation) and maintaining $1.5 trillion in excess reserves in the financial system. Likewise, the ECB extended its pledge to keep rates at record lows, and China has returned to fiscal and monetary stimulus to revive its flagging growth stemming from the trade war. Meanwhile, Corporate America has been quietly posting record levels of dividends and share buybacks, as well as boosting its capital expenditures – which is likely to accelerate once a trade deal with China is signed (which just became more likely with the apparently-benign findings of the Mueller investigation). In addition, the bellwether semiconductor industry is presenting a more upbeat tone and an upturn from a cyclical bottom (due to temporary oversupply), while crude oil has broken out above overhead resistance at $60.

On the other hand, there is some understandable concern that US corporate earnings forecasts have been revised downward to flat or negative for the first couple of quarters of 2019. Of course, it would be preferable to see a continuation of the solid earnings growth and profitability of last year, but the good news is that revenue growth is projected to remain solid (at least 4.5% for all quarters), and then earnings is expected to return to a growth track in 2H2019. Moreover, the concurrent reduction in the discount rate (due to lower interest rates) is an offsetting factor for stock valuations.

All of this leads me to believe that economic conditions remain generally favorable for stocks. In addition, I think we may see upside surprises in Q1 and Q2 earnings announcements, especially given the low bar that has been reset. But it also may mean that investors will become more selective, with some stocks doing quite well even if the broad market indexes show only modest growth this year.

In this periodic update, I provide a market commentary, offer my technical analysis of the S&P 500, review Sabrient’s latest fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten US business sectors, and serve up some actionable ETF trading ideas. In summary, our sector rankings remain bullish and the technical picture suggests an imminent upside breakout, while the sector rotation model maintains its a bullish posture. Read on…

Q1 turned out to be one for the ages, and after some extreme moves and bouts of volatility, stocks settled down and closed out the quarter with a flourish. After falling more than -10% from the start of the year until February 11, the S&P 500 was up +6.6% in March, up +13% since February 11, and finished Q1 slightly positive at +0.8% -- and it is up +206% since the depths of March 9, 2009.

Two weeks ago, bulls seemed ready to push stocks higher as long-standing support reliably kicked in. But with just one full week to go before the Independence Day holiday week arrives, we will see if bulls can muster some reinforcements and make another run at the May highs. Small caps and NASDAQ are already there, but it is questionable whether those segments can drag along the broader market. To be sure, there is plenty of potential fuel floating around in the form of a friendly Fed and abundant global liquidity seeking the safety and strength of US stocks and bonds.

Last week, stocks cycled bullish yet again. In fact, the S&P 500, NYSE Composite, and NASDAQ each closed at record highs as investors positioned for the heart of earnings season in the wake of strong reports from some of the Tech giants. Notably, Utilities stocks got some renewed traction as yield-starved investors returned to the sector.

Volatility reigned in January on elevated volume as stock investors shifted their focus from global events to U.S. earnings reports, which have ranged from amazing (e.g., Apple) to crushing (e.g., Microsoft). Although the earnings reports have brought plenty of surprises, the volatility is no surprise, as I and many other market commentators predicted for the New Year.

Last week, the S&P 500 put an end to its streak of weekly losses, despite giving back some gains on Friday. Thursday provided the big catalyst, with the ECB’s announcement of its bold new monetary stimulus plan. Investors were cheered and soothed for the moment. And U.S. fundamentals still look strong.

U.S. stocks found support once again last week and rallied on strong volume. Of course, the main catalyst was the FOMC policy statement on Wednesday that maintained its dovish language with a pledge of considerable time before raising the fed funds rate and adding that it would be patient as it begins the process of normalizing monetary policy. The result was yet another classic V-bottom. Ho, ho, ho. Say hello to Santa Claus.

Although the stock market displayed weakness last week as I suggested it would, bulls aren’t going down easily. In fact, they’re going down swinging, absorbing most of the blows delivered by hesitant bears. Despite holding up admirably when weakness was both expected and warranted, and although I still see higher highs ahead, I am still not convinced that we have seen the ultimate lows for this pullback. A number of signs point to more weakness ahead.

Today’s market was strong with lots of volume to open the week and close the quarter.  The strongest index of the day was the Russell 2000, up 1.8%, followed by the S&P 500, up 0.8%, and the NASDAQ, up 0.7%.  NYSE volume was a strong 810 million.  The S&P 500 squeaked out a narrow 0.7% gain for the month, which is better than the NASDAQ’s 2.5% drop and the Russell 2000’s 1% drop.  The biotechnology ETF, IBB, delivered an exceptionally strong perfo

david / Tag: IBB, ALK, JAZZ, MRVL / 0 Comments

If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.”  -- R. Buckminster Fuller

Barring a flock of Black Swans swooping down to descend on Wall Street, investor focus will inarguably be placed upon the political theater now playing out in Washington.

daniel / Tag: xlv, IBB, VHT, IYH, FXH / 0 Comments