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One-Off or Trouble Ahead?

The news of a new Covid-19 variant spreading in South Africa and around the world by the World Health Organization (WHO) led to a sharp market sell-off last Friday, 11/26/21. The concern comes as the new variant called Omicron contains more mutations to the spike protein and is more contagious to the delta variant. Experts fear the Omicron variant may be more resistant to the current Covid-19 vaccines.


The news spooked the market on Friday, as major stock market indexes sold off sharply into the end of the shortened trading day, placing it as one of the worst trading days of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) plummeted 905.04 points or 2.53%. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) suffered a sharp setback, down 2.27%, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.23% for the day.


Is the news on Friday another one-off market decline, or is this the start of another panic-driven sell-off?


Unless you are a virologist it is difficult to know if the rate of transmissibility is as dire as suggested, or if the efficacy of the current vaccines against Omicron is effective, or the new mortality and hospital admission rate, and others.


A brief technical study of the performances of the stock market indexes on Friday shows the rankings of the current market selloffs are almost identical to the Covid-19 pandemic induced panic market sell-off period that began from 2/19/20-3/22/20.


For instance, on Friday, Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX) fell -2.09% for the day, and from 2/19/20-3/23/20, NDX fell -27.90%. Based on the magnitude of the decline among the six popular stock market indexes, NDX was the best-ranked index. Nasdaq Composite Index (COMPQ) also declined 30.12% during the Feb-Mar 2020 downturn and -2.23% during the 11/26/21 decline, placing it as the second-best ranked index. S&P 500 Index (SPX) dropped -35.41% during the 2/19/20-3/23/20 period and -2.27% during 11/26/21, putting it as the third-best ranked indexes. The remaining indexes are as follows: ranked fourth-best was INDU (-38.07% vs -2.53%), ranked fifth/sixth-best was SML (-43.36% vs -3.72%), ranked sixth/fifth-best was MID (-43.88% vs -3.16%).


Another technical study of the S&P sectors also showed almost the same correlations. The recent Black Friday’s market sell-off severely hurt the Energy (XLE – the worst-ranked sector with -4.02% on 11/26/21 vs -56.07% from 2/19/20-3/23/20), Financials (XLF – second-worst -3.32% vs -42.79%), Industrials (XLI – third/fourth-worst -41.58% vs -2.71%), and Real Estate (XLRE – fourth-worst/fifth-worst -37.81% vs -2.71%). The best performing S&P sectors during the two respective market downturns are: Consumer Staples (XLP – best/second best ranked -24.16% vs -1.26%, Healthcare (XLV – second best/best -27.93% vs 0.37%), Communication Services (XLC – third best/fifth best -29.78% vs -1.83%), Technology (XLK – fourth best/sixth best -31.16% vs -2.50%), and Consumer Discretionary (XLY – fifth best/ninth best -33.50% vs -2.73%).

One final study of the performances of the six major stock market indexes from the 3/23/20 market bottom to 2020 year-end on 12/31/20 showed the following index rankings: MID (+89.29%), COMPQ (+87.86%), SML (+87.84%), NDX (+83.94%), SPX (+67.88%), and INDU (+64.62%).


As we fast forward to today, 11/29/21, the stock market rebounded from Friday’s sharp Omicron variant sell-off, as President Biden decided not to enact new lockdowns. Investors favored the liquid and well-capitalized markets such as the mega-cap technology-laden NDX (+2.33%), broad-based COMPQ (+1.88%), and SPX (+1.32%). On the sector front, investors were actively buying Technology (XLK +2.50%), Consumer Discretionary (XLY +1.55%), Utilities (XLU +1.48%), Real Estate (XLRE +1.26%), and Communication Services (XLC +0.86%).

Many are currently attempting to re-price the risks associated with the latest Omicron Covid-19 variant. The unknowns surrounding the new variant are fluid and will likely change. There may or may not be economic consequences when and if Omicron evolves. Investors and traders will need to prepare for the outcome of various scenarios. Based on the above statistics and a current technical analysis on major markets as well as RRG studies conducted on major market indexes and S&P 500 sectors, we can draw the following conclusions:


NDX, COMP, and SPX appear to be the best-positioned markets to outperform peers as professional money managers shift toward well-capitalized, solid, sustainable growth markets, sectors, and stocks into year-end to early-2022. Also, a balanced and diversified portfolio is recommended to hedge against a rise in market volatility. Technology (XLK), Consumer Discretionary (XLY), Real Estate (XLRE), and Select Industrials – Railroads can excel under current market conditions.


Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

Source: Courtesy of StockCharts.com

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