In the first three months of 2019, the S&P 500 surged 13%, its best quarterly performance in nearly ten years. This is strikingly similar to the rally of 1999—which may have been the most speculative in U.S. history.
Based on standard technical retracements, the best-case S&P 500 bounce “should” have been exhausted in the range of 2,700-2,750. Less than three months since a 19.8% close-to-close decline, the market has rallied to within reach of a new high, a move which would commemorate the bull market’s 10th anniversary.
The Research Summary is now available for download on our website for February 2019. The Research Summary provides a synopsis of The Leuthold Group's monthly market outlook.
The fourth quarter selloff and subsequent rebound, as seen by Doug Ramsey (Chief Investment Officer) and Jim Paulsen (Chief Investment Strategist).
At some point in his career, famed stock trader Jesse Livermore ceased using the terms bull and bear, opting instead to describe trends in terms of “lines of least resistance.” He felt the change in terminology enabled a more flexible, unbiased mindset.
The bears gorged themselves in the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the S&P 500 closed at a correction low the day afterward. “Christmas” arrived immediately thereafter, with a six-day gain of 6%. But that was followed by a two-day collapse on December 4th and 6th, which undercut the post-Thanksgiving low on an intraday basis.
We wrote in October’s Green Book that “many once reliable seasonal market patterns have been out of sync in recent years.” The market gods punished us for having the audacity to write such a thing (and during October, of all months!), taking the S&P 500 down to within 0.1% of “correction territory” at the October 29th low. But the punishment outside the U.S. commenced long beforehand, and last month’s losses drove several foreign market measures into bear territory. We expect U.S. blue chips to follow.
We’ve been reticent to draw links between the current bull and that of the late 1990s; we felt the last phase of the earlier episode was so extraordinary it was unlikely we’d see anything similar again in our lifetimes. But statistical parallels are on the rise, including the attempt by the S&P 500 to recoup its 2018 correction losses.
The S&P 500 is on the verge of reversing its early-2018 losses and, if achieved, it would initially be accompanied by six “Red Flags”—which are based on key market indexes failing to record new highs in the 21 trading days preceding a new S&P 500 high. The last time the tally reached “six” was in May 2015—occurring at the final high before an S&P 500 loss of nearly 15% over the ensuing nine months.
Value finally performed well during July, turning in its best month of 2018 on a spread basis. While the factor category is still deep in negative territory for the year, almost 85% of its underperformance is coming from the worst quintile outperforming the universe; meaning Value has mostly struggled because of expensive stocks outperforming, not cheap stocks lagging.