Distrust and caution are the parents of security.
Below is an assessment of the performance of some of the most important sectors and asset classes relative to each other, with an interpretation of what underlying market dynamics may be signaling about the future direction of risk-taking by investors. The below charts are all price ratios which show the underlying trend of the numerator relative to the denominator. A rising price ratio means the numerator is outperforming (up more/down less) the denominator.
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LEADERS: CORRECTION ODDS RISE
Financials (NYSEARCA:XLF) – Still Stalling
: Financials appears to be stalling, having a hard time getting past relative resistance as the Dow
(INDEXDJX:.DJI) nears all-time highs and as bond yields rise. The problem? This could be signaling the start of a risk-off period ahead, since financials tend to outperform when the yield curve steepens. If weakness kicks in, that may be a warning sign for the near-term.
Industrials (NYSEARCA:XLI) – Time to Break?
: Industrials have had a huge move in relative terms since mid-October, coinciding with strength in emerging markets and a return of risk-taking. The move now looks extended, echoing 2010 in terms of magnitude and duration. If this is the start of weakness, it would be a bad sign for risk-sentiment.
Small-Caps (NYSEARCA:SLY) – Rolling Over
: Small-caps have strongly outperformed since late-November in a near-vertical way on the backs of increased domestic growth expectations and bets that the fiscal cliff would get resolved. Recent relative momentum appears to be waning. Underperformance could kick in during this month, which would be a sign of risk-off rotation to come. LAGGARDS: DOUBTS CONTINUE
Consumer Discretionary (NYSEARCA:XLY) – BROKEN?
: Weaker-than-expected consumer confidence, combined with rising oil prices, may finally result in a relative top for the consumer discretionary sector after stunning outperformance since late-2008. More time is needed to see if the break below the 20-day moving average will hold, but this may be an ominous sign for the near-term.
Materials (NYSEARCA:XLB) – Abrupt Decline
: Materials have rolled over, as realizations of emerging market weakness kicks in despite China growth acceleration. The sharpness of the move lends itself to a bounce, but it is concerning from the standpoint of a breakdown in commodity excitement.
Technology (NYSEARCA:XLK) – No Love
: Technology has gone round-trip, hugely underperforming the broader S&P 500
(INDEXSP:.INX). The move is largely due to Apple's
(NASDAQ:AAPL) weakness, but it does appear that a bottom may be near as the ratio hits support.
Across the board, intermarket trends for cyclical leaders remain exhausted, and defensive trades are staging a comeback. My firm's ATAC (Accelerated Time And Capital) models used for managing our mutual fund and separate accounts remain highly defensive as of last week, as the odds of a correction rise meaningfully right at the point the Dow hovers around 14,000. Unless a significant improvement occurs internally in the market in the coming days, the correction may indeed have started.
Editor's note: This update is published every week exclusively for Minyanville, and is compiled by Michael A. Gayed, CFA, Chief Investment Strategist of Pension Partners, LLC.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
This writing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, a solicitation to buy, or a recommendation regarding any securities transaction, or as an offer to provide advisory or other services by Pension Partners, LLC in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction. The information contained in this writing should not be construed as financial or investment advice on any subject matter. Pension Partners, LLC expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken based on any or all of the information on this writing.
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