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Asset Classes, Investment Styles, and S&P 500 Sectors YTD Performances


To maximize your profits and to minimize risks you would need to better understand the big picture. That is, understanding the historical relationships between asset classes, investment styles, and S&P 500 sectors during bull, bear, and trading range market environments helps with investment decisions. This becomes increasingly important during periods of market turmoil and high volatility. In a bull market investment mistakes are masked by strong market returns. However, in a bear market mistakes are not easily recouped and can be compounded.


The discrepancies between asset classes, investment styles, and S&P 500 sectors often warn of structural shifts or unsustainable trends. These divergences can signal the need for investors to rebalance of positions within asset classes, investment styles and S&P 500 sectors. It also suggests the need to implement disciplined risk management strategies. Enclosed below are the year-to-date performances of key asset classes, investment styles and S&P 500 sectors. There are visible divergences developing in major markets. The question then becomes are these discrepancies sustainable and if not, what does this mean for investors and traders alike?


Asset Classes


Defensive assets such as Bonds, Gold and US Dollar have outperformed the higher beta assets (SPX and Crude Oil) this year due to the market turmoil during Feb-Mar 2020 timeframe. Nonetheless, it is unusual for Bonds (TLT +22.64% YTD) to outperform Stocks (SPY - 13.06% YTD) by such a wide margin. The extreme discrepancies between Bonds and Stocks has narrowed over the past two weeks as SPY has rallied sharply from its 3/23/20 low. So, the question then becomes will this trend continue this year? On the commodities front, two key commodities have also diverged sharply from one another. There have been times when Gold (GLD +11.05% YTD) and Crude Oil (USO - 61.12% YTD) have traded in opposite direction. However, it is rare to witness such a wide discrepancy. The US Dollar (UUP) is often a major factor in commodities as the two assets are typically inversely correlated. The strength in UUP has adversely impacted USO but had a minimal impact on GLD. This would imply a structural shift may be developing within the commodities market. A structural bear in Crude Oil may lead to commodity traders/investors favoring Gold and other commodities.


Investment Styles


S&P 500 Growth (SPYG) consistently outperformed the market last year and this outperformance trend carried over into earlier this year as markets recorded all-time time highs (2/19/20). However, as equities entered a bear decline from 2/19/20 to 3/23/20 SPYG continued with its outperformance cycle against many of its peers including S&P 500 Index (SPY), S&P 500 Value (SPYV) and S&P 500 High Dividend (SPYD). It is reasonable to expect defensive sectors such as S&P 500 High Dividend (SPYD) to outperform its higher beta counterparts during market uncertainties. This was not the case. Why? We suspect the wide dislocations in credits and interest rates resulted in investors favoring liquid and secular growth stocks such as large-cap growth names within the Technology and Biotechnology arena led to SPYG outperforming peers. Does this then imply SPYG will continue with its outperformance trend during the 3/23/20-present recovery?


S&P 500 Sectors


S&P 500 Index (SPY) is down -13.06% since the beginning of the year. However, half of the major S&P 500 sectors have outperformed the benchmark large-cap market (SPY). As can be expected the S&P 500 sector outperformers were concentrated within the traditional defensive minded sectors such as Utilities (XLU), Healthcare (XLV), Consumer Staples (XLV), Real Estate (XLRE), and Communication Services (XLC). It is also interesting that an economically sensitive and secular growth sector, Technology (XLK), showed up as the second-best S&P performer on a year to date basis. The recent Feb-Mar 2020 bear decline would have been much worse with the relative outperformance from XLK. Can XLK continue to lead the SPY back up as it has successfully done from the 3/23/20 low?


Five major S&P 500 sectors have also underperformed the benchmark large-cap market (SPY -13.06% YTD). S&P 500 sector underperformers have come from many of the commodity sensitive sectors (Energy-XLE and Materials-XLB) and the economically sensitive sectors (Consumer Discretionary-XLY and Industrials-XLI). Like the other S&P 500 performance chart there is an outlier namely an interest rate sensitive sector (Financials-XLF). Since XLF is an important S&P 500 sector from the perspective of its large market capitalization and as a conduit to credit and lending in the economy it is important this sector must improve to sustain a longer-term SPX recovery.



Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

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