If history is any indication, the big surge in stocks that has started this year seems likely to continue. Markets have had a great week and the S&P 500 is up 11% on the year. Prices are only 5.3% off their all-time high. That bodes well because stocks tend to track their first two-month performance for the rest of the year. 64% of the time stocks continue to perform throughout the year just like they did in January and February. The last time the S&P 500 climbed more than 10% in January and February (1991), it rose an additional 14% for the year.
FINSUM: Stocks are in a sweet spot right now, with the Fed having backed off and trade fears easing. That seems likely to stay in place for a while, but we wonder if any stresses related to the 2020 election might start to weight on the market later this year.
The market has hit a rough patch the last couple of days, falling almost 1% yesterday. Investors have once again grown anxious about slowing growth and trade tensions between the US and Mexico. Despite this renewed anxiety, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is encouraging investors to buy the dip. The bank has frustration about the “stubbornly flat” yield curve, but says that “The correct strategy in 2018 was ‘sell-the-rip’; Positioning, Policy, Profits and Populism argue the correct early 2019 trading strategy is to ‘buy-the-dip”.
FINSUM: The market has bounced back a long way from Xmas eve. In some ways it feels too much too fast, but then again, valuations are more sensible and the Fed has backed off.
One of the hottest trades in the last several months has been to buy a basket of low volatility stocks. The idea is that one can insulate their portfolio from the market’s fluctuations by buying stocks that are less likely to see swings in value. The problem is, the trade has gotten very crowded. Legal & General Investment Management says that “Low volatility might be becoming vulnerable as investors chasing recent performance and buying into gloomy 2018 outlooks flock into it … It is becoming a relatively consensus position, which for us is a warning sign”.
FINSUM: Low volatility stocks held up well in the tumultuous fourth quarter, but the attractiveness of the strategy has made valuations quite high. Such stocks typically lag in upward markets, so there does seem to be some significant risk here.
Here is potentially good news for investors—the market’s start to this year has been the best since 1987. Both the S&P and Russell have risen considerably in the first 12 sessions of the year, with the former jumping 8.8%. The best start since ’87 sounds good, except that 1987 rivals 2008 as having the worst reputation with investors (shares fell almost 23% in a single day in October 1987). Analysts are urging caution, especially on small caps, as the gains don’t seem sustainable given the huge buildup in leverage that has occurred in small companies over the last few years.
FINSUM: The parallel to 1987 is completely irrelevant, as it is really only based on the percentage gain over 12 sessions.
Stocks got wounded very badly in the last quarter of the year, with many stocks entering deep bear markets. Many analysts think stocks are in for a good year, so many feel it is a good time to buy. So what are the best rebound picks for 2019? Sector-wise, it might be best to look at IT, energy, communication services, and utilities. In terms of individual names, consider Noble Energy, Conagra Brands, Alexion Pharma, American Airlines, Electronic Arts, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Tiffany & Co., and Citigroup.
FINSUM: Quite a diverse list! But then again, that is what happens when the S&P 500 falls 20%--there are a lot of wounded stocks to choose from.