In difficult economic environments, when the stock market
seems to move with little rhyme or reason, investors will sometimes say “it’s
a stock pickers market.”
The idea of a “stock picker’s market” is that of a trendless
market, but one where you can still buy quality, undervalued stocks and make
But according to the
Wall Street Journal, that’s not what we have right now. And
investors who are relying simply on a company’s fundamentals to invest are
not being rewarded with profits.
That’s because these days, stocks tend to move in tandem in
response to macro forces, like the economic news, politics or
It’s called correlation when stocks move with the S&P
500. Between 2000 and 2006, correlation with the S&P 500 was 27%. That
means that most stocks moved independently of the S&P 500. Today,
correlation is around 66%, and has been as high as 80% in the last
The fact that the
majority of stocks move together tells us a couple important things. One,
investors are using Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). ETFs, which are baskets of
stocks representing a particular sector, give investors a less risky to
capitalize on sector trends.
So, for instance, if technology is doing well (which it is),
instead of trying to invest in one particular company, an investor might buy
the Semiconductor HOLDRS (SMH) and get broad exposure to chip stocks like
Intel (Nasdaq:INTC), Altera
(Nasdaq:ALTR) and Broadcom
(Nasdaq:BRCM). Or they might
choose the Software HOLDRS (SWH) and get exposure to Microsoft
(Nasdaq:INTU) and TIBCO
When investors buy ETFs, the funds have to go out and buy
stocks, which helps cause higher correlation.
High correlation of stocks also tells us that investors are
still very nervous about the U.S. and the global economy. When good economic data is released, we usually
see a powerful rally. Conversely, a weak unemployment report or news about
inflation in China can send
all stocks lower, regardless of their fundamentals.
Now, how can we use this information? For one, it suggests
that taking a trader’s mentality and buy the dips and sell the rips. My
colleague at Wyatt Investment
Research, Jason Cimpl, who runs the TradeMaster Daily Stock
Alerts service has led his subscribers to 146%
cumulative gains this year with his swing trading strategies.
We can also accumulate quality stocks when they sell off.
Because the current high-correlation environment won’t last. Investors will
get more comfortable that the U.S.
economy isn’t going to fall apart again like it did in
2007-2008. That will lead some more stability for the stock market as
investors won’t run for the exits every time some thing goes “bump” in the
I would also recommend focusing on sectors that will benefit
from growth, like financials and energy.
Yesterday’s late sell-off was a bit disappointing after the blockbuster rally on Friday.
It’s always nice to see some follow-through after a rally.
But volume on the S&P 500 was lighter yesterday than it
was on Friday, which is positive. And the index is still well above support
The S&P 500 has tested resistance at 1,150 twice during
this rally. I still expect it to break above that level.
For your information, Fisher Investments CEO Ken Fisher told a Forbes roundtable
that “…[t]he next 10 years are going to be just as good as the 1990s. The
problems in this current environment we think are so different, and so new
and so unique. It’s the same stupid old normal we’ve always had. We’ve got a
By “stupid old normal” he’s referring to the PIMCO idea of a
New Normal, where growth remains very slow and unemployment high. Fisher
pointedly called the New Normal, as championed by PIMCO’s CEO Mohamed
Of course, I’d like to hear your thoughts here: [email protected]