Stocks fell for the sixth consecutive day as hawkish comments from Fed officials and incoming economic data continue to unnerve investors. All major stock market indexes, including the S&P 500 Index (SPX), Nasdaq Composite Index (COMPQ), and Dow Jones Industrial (INDU), have fallen into bear territories. They are on pace for their worst nine-month performances in over 20 years, dating back to the Tech/Telecom Dot.com crisis.
The response from the Fed to the stubbornly high inflation rate has been to raise interest rates to try to cool the economy. By committing to restore price stability, the central bank may also trip the economy into recession.
Rising interest rates have weighed on financial assets, pushing bond prices down and yields higher. The Fed hikes have also hurt the housing market and stocks, especially growth-related securities. Although the Conference Board consumer-confidence index increased in September for the second consecutive month because of falling gas prices, consumers continue to fear an impending economic slowdown.
The market actions in the past few weeks have become increasingly bearish, suggesting a risk-off market environment. Challenging market conditions such as weak market breadth, low volume, declining momentum, poor sector rotations, and unfavorable risk/reward profiles continue to warn of further selling.
One area of the market that is critically important to the sustainability of an economic growth cycle and a stock market bottom/rally is consumers and consumer spending. After all, consumer spending accounts for about 65 to 70 percent of the overall GDP.
The S&P Retail Index (RLX) is an excellent proxy for consumer confidence and spending. A bullish RLX tends to lead to favorable business cycles and economic expansions. On the other hand, a bearish RLX warns of slowing business cycles and economic contraction cycles.
Retailers face challenges as higher prices have eroded profit margins and revenues. Consumers also remain under pressure due to higher prices. RLX will likely decline as inflationary pressures weaken corporate earnings and consumer spending falls.
RLX is nearing another inflection point as it retests crucial support near the summer lows at 2,755.96 and the May 2020 V-pattern breakout at 2,698.99. Failure to maintain support here confirms the next major RLX selloff toward 2,459-2,494.5 (Jan 2020 breakout, and the 78.6% retracement from Mar 2020-Nov 2021 rally. The Dec 2019 uptrend now rising near 2,200 provides longer-term support. However, the ability to rebound from the summer lows may trigger the next RLX oversold rally toward a retest of the 50-day ma (3,305) and above this 3,490.5 (200-day ma).
The price momentum MACD indicator continues to decline and will likely retest its summer lows. RLX's relative strength analysis against SPX has held up well during the past few weeks but remains confined to a 2-year downtrend channel. The RSI overbought/oversold indicator (31.09) hovers near oversold levels (30) but risks overshooting to the downside since it has fallen below the 30 threshold levels several times over the years, including Jan 2022 (16), Feb 2020 (25), Aug 2019 (21.5), and Oct 2018 (18).
The Retail Index (RLX) is part of the S&P Consumer Discretionary sector (XLY). XLY remains an important economically sensitive sector that leads business and economic cycles ahead of economic peaks and troughs.
XLY is approaching a critical phase as the sector nears pivotal support at 129.5-132.5, corresponding to the Jul 2020 V-pattern breakout, Jun 2022 lows, and the 61.8% retracement from Mar 2020-Nov 2022 rally. A neckline breakdown confirms a top and signals the next XLY selloff. Weaknesses from RLX and XLY further increase the risk of an economic contraction (i.e., recession).