Really Bad Breadth

Came across a statistic this morning that caught my attention. While our own breadth measures have been signaling potential trouble ahead, or, at a minimum, anything but a healthy market environment, the following punctuates just how bad current market breadth actually is.

I’ll put it this way — assuming you don’t have all of your money in an S&P 500 Index fund — if you don’t own a disproportionate amount of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet (Google) you’re dramatically under-performing the broader market; as those four stocks literally account for 67% of the S&P’s year-to-date gain.

Now don’t go panicking just yet, but the last time we saw that kind of concentration was in 1999.

This inspired me to do a little extra digging this morning: I literally scrolled through the S&P 500 sector by sector and documented the number of members gaining vs losing so far this year. 

Here’s what I found:

S&P 500 Index year-to-date as of 2/10/2020: 60.66% UP/39.34% DOWN

By Sector:

ENERGY: 35.9% UP/64.1% DOWN

FINANCIALS: 55.38% UP/44.62% DOWN

HEALTHCARE: 65.57% UP/34.42 DOWN


INDUSTRIALS: 60.61% UP/39.39% DOWN


REAL ESTATE: 83.87% UP/16.13% DOWN


UTILITIES: 89.29% UP/10.71% DOWN

TECH: 67.61% UP/32.39% DOWN

So, in a nutshell, 40% of the stocks that comprise the S&P 500 are currently in the red on the year. Therefore, particularly when we look beyond a mere handful of names (above), we have a market that is anything but inspiring thus far in 2020.

In terms of economic signals; the fact that only 44% of consumer discretionary stocks are currently up on the year while those trading in the green among consumer staples, healthcare and utilities are 61%, 66% and 89% respectively is concerning.

Oh, and by the way, while the S&P 500 is trading at what are historically-high valuations — price to earnings (P/E) 22.31, price to sales (P/S) 2.42 (all time high P/S!) — take a look at those stocks where 2/3rds of the year’s gains are concentrated:

Microsoft: P/E 34.64, P/S 10.63

Apple: P/E 25.45, P/S 5.44

Amazon: P/E 94.08, P/S 3.81

Alphabet (Google): P/E 31.89, P/S 6.47

If — on top of all of the macro data and corporate debt statistics we’ve thrown at you the past few months — you’ve doubted the logic behind our rotating to a more conservative asset mix, the above should have quelled your concerns…

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