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Prieur Perspective: Equity Lows Behind Us?


Probably - but a sustainable uptrend will take time to develop.

Five in a row! Notwithstanding sentiment for equities waxing and waning for most of the Easter-shortened week, bourses closed strongly on Friday and capped a 5-week winning streak - the first since October 2007 for the major MSCI and US stock market indices.

An encouraging pre-announcement of first-quarter results by Wells Fargo (WFC) provided some confidence for the nascent earnings season and gave a healthy boost to the financial sector and overall market.

On a related note, the Treasury Department is expected to announce the expansion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to aid ailing life-insurance companies within the next few days, adding a third industry to the banks and automakers that have already received bailouts from the government.

Not only did global stock markets extend their gains last week, but the US dollar reclaimed a stronger footing as a result of heightened risk aversion during the earlier part of the week. Holiday-thinned trading in commodities ended with a mixed performance among the 19 constituents of the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index. Government bonds, under threat of large-scale issuance in the coming months, also had a relatively quiet period.

The performance of the major asset classes is summarized by the chart below, courtesy of

Stock markets, led by financials, added to the gains of the rally that commenced on March 10 (see table below). The MSCI World Index gained 0.8% (YTD -6.4%) and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index 2.5% (YTD +11.6%). These indices have risen by 25.1% and 30.4% respectively since the low of March 9.

Returns around the globe ranged from top-performers Ukraine (+19.4%), Egypt (+9.7%) and Russia (+8.5%) to Côte d'Ivoire (-4.3%), Macedonia (-4.1%), Norway (-3.9%) and the United Kingdom (-3.4%), which were languishing in the red. (Click here to access a complete list of global stock market movements, as supplied by Emerginvest.)

Among the major US indices, the NASDAQ Composite Index (+4.8%) is the only index in positive territory for the year to date. Although not yet claiming this feat, US small caps have also been running hard over the past few weeks, as can be seen from the rising trend line of the S&P 600 Small Cap Index relative to the S&P 500 Large Cap Index since the March 9 lows. The fact that small companies are now outperforming the larger ones is an indication that investors are becoming less risk averse - a positive sign for equities in general to improve further.

As far as leadership since the start of the 5-week old rally is concerned, the rebounding Financial SPDR (XLF) is by far the top performer among the economic sector exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Interestingly, cyclical sectors such as the Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY), Industrial SPDR (XLI), Materials SPDR (XLB) and Technology SPDR (XLK) all outperformed the S&P 500, whereas the traditional defensive sectors like the Utilities SPDR (XLU), Energy SPDR (XLE), Consumer Staples SPDR (XLP) and Health Care SPDR (XLV) were all lagging the broader market. This is the type of pattern one would typically expect to emerge during a market base formation development.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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