Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New highs but signs of divergences

The market indices continue to chug along as they steadily make daily new highs with the exception of small caps which have lagged recently.   We have not touched on correlations of late but this has proven to be the year of stock picking.  During most of the QE environment from the market bottom in 2009 correlations remained abnormally high as asset classes and sectors followed each other in the same direction in a herd mentality fashion.  However sector correlations have completely diverged throughout 2017 and are hitting the lowest levels by a wide margin.  Below we look at the 30-day average correlations of the major S&P 500 sectors.  We overlaid the trend of the S&P 500 during the same time frame.  It clearly illustrates how 2017 has been a stock pickers year as correlations have collapsed.  We believe this is another endorsement for active management going forward.

Below is a great blog post from Chris Kimble that highlights the divergence in equal and market capitalization indexes.   This shows how a few big cap stocks (think FANG stocks) that have performed well are propping up the indices.  The equal weighted indexes are under-performing the cap weighted indexes by a whopping 25%.  We also see this divergence in our own breadth indicators.  One simple one we follow is the amount of stocks trading above the 20 and 50 day moving averages.  The second chart shows how momentum has peaked prior to price displaying a negative divergence.  This usually is resolved to the upside but we can see typically when momentum fades this tends to lead to a level of consolidation or pullback before breadth picks up and momentum resumes. 

The S&P remains overbought and with momentum fading we could be in for some short term weakness as the market digests the recent gains.  However, as earnings season had been favorable to equities and with the potential for tax reform this should keep a bid in the market.  Coupled with correlations at multi-year lows this sets up nicely for an active manager assuming you are positioned in the right areas, as we think the strong will get stronger and the weak performers will be under tax selling till year end. 

Ryan Worch is the Managing Director of Worch Capital LLC. Worch Capital LLC is the general partner of a long/short equity strategy that operates with a directional bias and while emphasizing capital preservation at all times.

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