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Are these Central Themes Converging? – Weekly Views

In the last three months our central theme for the stock market has been the attempt at sector rotation from defensive/cautious leadership to offensive/risk oriented sector leadership.  With this process comes expected volatility which has certainly manifested itself along the way.  The slow crawl of this process has spoken to the general uncertainty of both the markets and the general economic landscape.

The long-standing defensive leaders of Utilities and Consumer Staples have clearly given up their leading strength and have meandered around with a downward bias.  Technology and the Industrials became identifiable leading sectors a couple of months ago as this rotation process began.  As trading days and weeks unfolded the Technology sector held its leading characteristics while the Industrials drifted about.  At this point we are left with one clearly leading sector – Technology – within our SPX9 system.  This speaks to weak structural health.  It appears Industrials are attempting to gain some strength again, which if occurs, would give us two sectors to point to as leaders.

Speaking to the lackluster structural health of the S&P 500; the overall H&UP rating via the SPX9 system is 44% which is a slight improvement from the 42% the previous week.  These low 40% range levels are generally ho-hum readings, but importantly, are off the low 20% levels of mid-September.

In a broader scope we also have been observing here in the Weekly View the overall earnings results for the component companies of the S&P 500.  As stated many times we have multiple quarters of negative earnings growth all-the-while the stock market itself has held generally high levels.  This has left the S&P 500 historically expensive from a valuation perspective in light of the poor earnings results coupled with elevated prices.  This is a significant concern from a fundamental analysis perspective.

It is imperative that earnings growth begin to trend positively to help justify these lofty valuation levels and to give the market on-going support.  On this note, it is concerning that earnings estimates for the 3rd Quarter ending September 30th have been reduced nearly a dollar per share for the collective S&P 500 companies since mid-July.  Earnings estimations being reduced is not what we like to see while we are looking for much-needed strength to kick into gear.

In a much larger view, per the most recent Weekly View, I shared the developing concern of a stagflation type economic environment where we see weakening economic results with a simultaneous building of price inflation pressure.  I emphasized then and will here again, this is not a certainty as much as it is a developing story, albeit an important development that is worthy of noting.

On this front, in the last week-plus we’ve seen three related housing reports come out that were all weak.  In addition, the durable goods report was negative when looked at comparatively from the previous year.  Within this report is the important Capital Investment results for the month of August.  This was also negative from the previous year which continues a trend.

The importance of capital investment has been shared on a few occasions in the Weekly View relative to its importance for the structural health of the economy by aiding the system to be more productive.  This all filters down to companies ability to be more profitable and to ultimately grow earnings.  Thigh bone attached to the hip bone kind of stuff.  On-going concerns about economic growth and a tremendous need for earnings growth rates to return to positive trends places real concerns for the market from a fundamental perspective.  This coupled with the limited leadership within SPX9 offered above, the overall backdrop continues to offer caution.  Stay nimble – be flexible.

I wish you well…

Ken Reinhart

Director, Market Research & Portfolio Analysis

Footnote:

H&UP’s is a quick summation of a rating system for SPX9 (abbreviation encompassing 9 Sectors of the S&P 500 with 107 sub-groups within those 9 sectors) that quickly references the percentage that is deemed healthy and higher (H&UP).  This comes from the proprietary “V-NN” ranking system that is composed of 4 ratings which are “V-H-N-or NN”.  A “V” or an “H” is a positive or constructive rank for said sector or sub-group within the sectors.

This commentary is presented only to provide perspectives on investment strategies and opportunities. The material contains opinions of the author, which are subject to markets change without notice. Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions which fluctuate. References to specific securities and issuers are for descriptive purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will work under all market conditions. Each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. PERFORMANCE IS NOT GUARANTEED AND LOSSES CAN OCCUR WITH ANY INVESTMENT STRATEGY.

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