Consumer confidence in the United States is at an 18-year high. The last time Americans registered a feeling of confidence this high was in September 2000. However, that could be a big problem for the stock market. Consumer confidence can prove a counter-indicator. The highest ever reading for the measure was recorded in May 2000, just before the Dotcom crash. Small business confidence is even higher, running at a 45-year peak. According to one analyst, “[To] any market historian, that does not guarantee a low-risk market, or another big bull market leg on the horizon”.
FINSUM: These kind of ultra-high measures do worry us as we feel healthy gains come in periods of reasonable concern, not euphoria.
Tech stocks and large caps have been getting all the headlines this year. There is increasingly a fear that only a handful of high-powered large stocks are driving the market. However, the reality is different, as small caps have been doing great. In fact, small caps have actually outpaced even the tech giants in appreciation this year. That is a very healthy sign for the market as it shows expanding breadth, which is typically a sign of a strong bull market that will continue. According to Bob Doll, famed portfolio manager from Nuveen, “Bull markets eventually end, and typically by the time you get to the peak, breadth is gone … This is a broad market move. It’s a good thing. It’s healthy.”.
FINSUM: We agree that this is very good news for the market. Even better, strong earnings growth has tempered high valuations, making things just a bit more reasonable.
Increasingly, investing in tech companies means you need to go big or go home. What we mean is that large cap tech companies have been outperforming their smaller peers handily. The S&P 500 Information Technology Sector is up about 14% this year, much better than the index’s 3.7% overall gain, but the S&P 600 Information Technology Sector has only gained 9.9%. That means that the largest tech company are significantly outperforming their smaller peers.
FINSUM: This is not a surprise given the overall momentum the FAANGs have had over the last few years. However, given the worries over regulation, it is odd to see they have outperformed smaller rivals very recently.
Small cap stocks are off to a good start this year, up over 3% this month. Furthermore, a strong start tends to signal good gains for the whole year. There is a lot of reason to be positive—the economy is good, regulations are being rolled back, and the bull market for small caps is much younger (less than two years since a big correction). However, risks abound, according to Barron’s, especially in the long-term. Valuations are still high by historical standards, and are actually higher than they first appear. Smaller companies are also more in-debt and more exposed to interest rate rises than many realize.
FINSUM: We think small caps will keep rising so long as the broader market does. Also, the fact that they had a 25% correction which ended in February 2016 gives them a bit more breathing room than their large cap peers.