The S&P 500 Information Technology sector has just broken out to a 15-year relative strength high, and it jumped two spots to the top scoring broad sector position. The breakout in Tech provides a rare example in which foreign market action presaged a major domestic move.
At a time when social media stocks are the rage, stodgy “Old Tech” has quietly tacked on a 20% gain in the 13 months since the social media peak, while the NASDAQ Internet Index is still a bit below its March 2014 high. Yet, “Old Tech” P/CF remains below the level of 1995.
Last year’s economically defensive winners held their grip on stock market leadership in January. This action is consistent with our view that the bull market is an aged, overvalued one that has begun a final “distribution” process that will eventually erupt into a cyclical bear.
The S&P 500 record median profit margin of 10.3% is now almost a full percentage point above the last cycle’s peak of 9.4% (second quarter of 2007). Trends across S&P sectors are not as uniform as one might expect, though, with only half of the ten sectors last quarter at profitability levels that exceeded their 2001-2007 expansion highs.
Nine Technology groups are in the top quintile of our group model, and the sector has strengthened on a relative basis after twice “testing” a trendline that dates back to the early 2000’s tech wreck. There’s reason to believe the new uptrend has longer-term legs.
The historical batting average of this strategy has been decent, with gains in 9 of 18 years along with “excess” returns over the S&P 500 in 10 of 18 years. The best Bounce seasons have occurred when the market was either down for the year through September, or up only modestly.