Scott Martindaleby Scott Martindale
President, Sabrient Systems LLC

After an “investor’s paradise” year in 2017 – buoyed by ultra-low levels of volatility, inflation, and interest rates, and fueled even more by the promise of fiscal stimulus (which came to fruition by year end) – 2018 was quite different. First, it endured a long overdue correction in February that reminded investors that volatility is not dead, and the market wasn’t quite the same thereafter, as investors’ attention focused on escalating trade wars and central bank monetary tightening, leading to a defensive risk-off rotation mid-year and ultimately to new lows, a “technical bear market” (in the Nasdaq and Russell 2000), and the worst year for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis. Then, it was confronted with the Brexit negotiations falling apart, Italy on the verge of public debt default, violent “yellow vest” protests in France, key economies like China and Germany reporting contractionary economic data, and bellwether companies like FedEx (FDX) and Apple (AAPL) giving gloomy sales forecasts that reflect poorly on the state of the global economy. The list of obstacles seems endless.

Moreover, US stocks weren’t the only asset class to take a beating last year. International equities fared even worse. Bonds, oil and commodities, most systematic strategies, and even cryptocurrencies all took a hit. A perfect scenario for gold to flourish, right? Wrong, gold did poorly, too. There was simply nowhere to hide. Deutsche Bank noted that 93% of global financial markets had negative returns in 2018, the worst such performance in the 117-year history of its data set. It was a bad year for market beta, as diversification didn’t offer any help.

Not surprisingly, all of this has weighed heavily upon investor sentiment, even though the US economy, corporate earnings, and consumer sentiment have remained quite strong, with no recession in sight and given low inflation and interest rates. So, despite the generally positive fundamental outlook, investors in aggregate chose to take a defensive risk-off posture, ultimately leading to a massive selloff – accentuated by the rise of passive investing and the dominance of algorithmic trading – that did huge technical damage to the chart and crushed investor sentiment.

But fear not. There may be a silver lining to all of this, as it has created a superb buying opportunity, and it may finally spell a return to a more selective stock-picker’s market, with lower correlations and higher performance dispersion. Moreover, my expectation for 2019 is for a de-escalation in the trade war with China, a more accommodative Fed, and for higher stock prices ahead. Forward valuations overall have become exceedingly attractive, especially in the cyclical sectors that typically flourish in a growing economy.

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 remains in a defensive posture. Read on…

Scott MartindaleAmazingly, the market has given us four major trend changes in the past month alone, which apparently hasn't happened with such frequency in over 10 years. Last week, the market was staring into the proverbial abyss as the S&P 500 incurred the dreaded “death cross,” in which the 50-day moving average of price crossed down through the longer-term 200-day moving average.

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Scott MartindaleLast week, the S&P 500 came perilously close to the dreaded 50-day moving average cross down through the 200-day moving average. This is usually considered by technicians to be an extremely bearish development. The S&P 500 came closer last week than the other major indexes, and actually set new lows for the year.

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Scott MartindaleThe stock market is searching for direction, testing support and resistance levels each week. After threatening a waterfall decline last week, it instead found support and has rallied strongly. Today, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrials joined the Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 by rising above the important 200-day moving average.

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Scott Martindale

Market volatility continues, with the Dow gapping down under 10,000 to start the day today before recovering nicely by the close. Most of the major indexes are still below their 200-day moving averages, but interestingly, the Nasdaq 100 (QQQQ) and the Russell 2000 (IWM) actually closed above theirs. I see this as bullish.

Scott Martindale

The stock market’s technical “topping formation” finally manifested in a correction in early May, and it resumed over the past several days. The 20-day moving average that had provided consistent support during the methodical rally has proven to be formidable resistance (along with the converging 50-day).

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