This has been one of the most interesting trading weeks of the year. The seasonal pattern of the stock market is to bottom in October, and rally through the end of the year. While this doesn’t happen every year, so far in October we are following that script. The S&P 500 sold off sharply following the Fed’s decision not to raise interest rates at the September meeting, but found bottom last Friday and has rallied ever since.
Often times the fourth quarter rally is led by names that have performed poorly in the first three quarters of the year. This week was no exception. Through the first nine months of the year energy, materials and the industrial sectors were down 21 percent, 17 percent and 10 percent respectively. Over the last week energy stocks are up 7 percent, the materials sector is up 6.5 percent and industrials are up 6 percent.
Two questions come to mind: First, why did this happen? Secondly, is it sustainable?
Growth stocks were in favor for the first nine months of the year. This is typical during periods of slow global growth as investors are willing to pay handsomely to get the kind of sales growth we have seen in Netflix, Amazon and the healthcare sector. At some point, these names become very expensive. The global slowdown has been led by China, and this past week economic data has been a little better in that country. Probably not enough to signal a huge change in their economy, but enough to spook investors regarding short positions in the more cyclical parts of the market.
As a firm, we believed that oil prices and the energy sector were due to rally because of supply and demand responses in the energy markets. Specifically, low oil prices have caused gasoline demand to rise here in the U.S., while simultaneously causing a drop off in oil production. Historically this combination has always led to higher oil prices and oil rallied nearly 10 percent this week alone.
Whether or not this change in the trend is sustainable remains to be seen. The developed economies of the world remain the engines of growth of the global economy. Demand from the U.S., UK and Europe need to rescue growth in flagging emerging market economies. We believe that this will be the case in the coming months, but doubt that the market will continue its recovery in a straight line. Slow growth accompanied by Fed uncertainty will lead to continued heightened volatility.
Our Takeaways for the Week
- Fourth quarter rallies are common in the stock market, and so far this quarter we are up nearly 5 percent
- We think global growth will accelerate as we move into 2015, supporting the more cyclical sectors of the S&P 500