Scott Martindaleby Scott Martindale
President, Sabrient Systems LLC

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes both hit new all-time highs this week on strong breadth, and all the major indexes appear to be consolidating recent gains before attempting an upside breakout. P/E multiples are expanding, particularly among large caps, as stocks rise despite a temporary slowdown in earnings growth. Why are investors bidding up stocks so aggressively? They have stopped looking over their shoulders with fear and anxiety and are instead focused on the opportunities ahead. And on that horizon, recession fears are falling, optimism regarding a US-China trade resolution is rising, US and Chinese economic data are improving, corporate profits are better than expected, and the Fed has agreed to step out of the way. All of this reduces uncertainty that typically holds back business investment. Stocks valuations are forward looking and a leading economic indicator, so they already seem to be pricing in expectations for stronger economic growth in the Q3, Q4, and 2020.

I said in my commentary last month that I thought we may see upside surprises in Q1 and Q2 earnings announcements, given the low bar that had been reset, and indeed we are seeing higher-than-average earnings beats – including big names like Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB), among many others – as half of the S&P 500 companies have reported. Moreover, the recent legal settlement between Apple and Qualcomm (QCOM) was a big positive news story that should now free up both companies to focus on 5G products, including step-function upgrades to smartphones, tablets, and computers, as the critical race with China for 5G dominance kicks into high gear.

Looking ahead, there are plenty of mixed signals for the economy and stocks – and no doubt the pessimists could fill a dossier with plenty of doom and gloom. But I think the pessimism has been a positive in keeping stocks from surging too exuberantly, given all the positive data that the optimists can cite. And on balance, the path of least resistance for both the economy and stocks appears to be upward. I think bond yields will continue to gradually firm up as capital rotates from bonds to equities in an improving growth and inflation environment, stabilizing the dollar (from advancing much further), while reducing the odds of a Fed rate cut in 2019. A healthy economy helps corporate earnings, while a dovish Fed keeps rates low and supports equity valuations. And as the trade war with China comes to resolution, I expect corporations will ramp up capital spending and guidance, enticing idle cash into the market and further fueling bullish conviction. Rather than an impending recession, we may be returning to the type of growth and inflation we enjoyed just prior to the tax reform bill, which would provide a predictable environment for corporate planning and steady (but not exuberant or inflationary) corporate earnings growth.

This should bode well not only for Sabrient’s Baker’s Dozen portfolios, but also for our other growth and dividend-oriented portfolios, like Sabrient Dividend and Dividend Opportunity, each of which comprises 50 growth-at-a-reasonable-price (aka GARP) stocks paying an aggregate yield in excess of 4% in what is essentially a growth-and-income strategy, and perhaps our 50-stock Small Cap Growth portfolios. As a reminder, I am always happy to make time for conversations with advisors about market conditions and our portfolios. We are known for our model-driven growth-at-a-reasonable-price (GARP) approach, and our model is directing us to smaller caps, as many of the high-quality large caps that are expected to generate solid earnings growth already have been “bid up” relative to small caps.

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, while the sector rotation model also maintains a bullish posture. Read on…

By Byron MacLeod, CFA
Associate Director of Research, Gradient Analytics, LLC

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

We at Gradient Analytics are accounting experts. We evaluate companies for earnings sustainability, financial engineering, and accounting mismanagement. Unfortunately, many investors and portfolio managers may be unaware of the variety of levers enabling managers to aggressively recognize revenue, temporarily boost earnings, overstate assets, hide liabilities, or grow through acquisitions. Unaware investors can suddenly find that their supposedly “safe” investments have turned sour on them.

By monitoring the true quality of earnings, it becomes easier to judge a company’s true financial health.

The “Trump Bump” & Rising Correlations

Though the market appears to be recently dominated by Trump’s potential impact on the American economy, earnings quality trends continue to be relevant to stock prices.    Read more

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Volatility continues to increase in the stock market and many of the leaders are breaking down. In particular, semiconductors took a rather big hit when one of the bellwethers warned of weakening global demand. Nevertheless, despite the significant headwinds, I do not think this spells the end of the bull market. But the technical damage to the charts is severe, particularly to the small caps, which are in full-blown correction mode. The large caps must show leadership and rally immediately -- or it will put at risk the critical and widely-anticipated year-end rally.

Bulls are having their way as summer draws to a close. Indeed, U.S. stocks and bonds seem to be the best and safest place to invest in a global economy that is at once hopeful and cautious, with lots of available cash hunting for attractive returns. But now the S&P 500 must deal with the ominous 2,000 level.

Scott MartindaleAs Q1 of 2014 comes to an end, we can see that January was extremely weak, February gained it all back, and March treaded water. At this point, as we head into what has been the strongest month of the year over the past 20 years, signals are mixed, with a steadily recovering economy and bullish fundamental indicators mixed with neutral technical and some bearish sentiment indicators.

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Scott MartindaleThere is no sugar-coating what happened to stocks on Friday. All around the world, stocks really took it on the chin as the usual support mechanisms that bulls have enjoyed failed to materialize. The S&P 500 sliced through firm support at 1800 on high volume like it wasn’t even there. But market participants had become convinced that a long-overdue correction was imminent, so they quite simply were looking for a reason to sell.

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Scott Martindale“Stocks fall on Fed taper discussion.” That’s the gist of what you heard in the media on Wednesday to account for the market’s late-day pullback. There’s always some sort of attempt to explain daily market action. But the reality is that investors simply must take a periodic breather to regroup and retrench, particularly when making an assault on round-number resistance for a major index.

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Scott MartindaleThe intransigence continues in Washington, and it has kept stock market buyers at bay until they get the go signal from Congress. This has left the sellers in control as investor sentiment has temporarily shifted from a buy-the-dip mentality to protect-your-gains and preservation-of-capital.

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Did you buy a market index call option in advance of the Scott MartindaleFOMC announcement on Wednesday? Maybe a straddle? Or did you at least hold pat on long positions knowing that you held an implicit “Fed put” against any meaningful downside? It seems like many investors did one of these, as markets have been strong in advance of today’s announcement.

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Scott MartindaleOverall, earnings reports have continued to beat the low bar of expectations.

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