Finding Strength in a Weak Market
U.S. stock indexes continued to fall last week, closing at their lowest weekly levels since the middle of 2021. The drop from the all-time highs set at the turn of the year puts the S&P 500 resolutely below the 423.6% Fibonacci extension from the 2007-2009 crash. The first two extensions from that decline each proved troublesome for equity gains, one coinciding with a manufacturing recession, and the other with a trade war and a global pandemic. Anything can happen on any day in the market, but it shouldn’t be surprising if this level takes further time to digest.
The Consumer Discretionary and Information Technology sectors are leading to the downside, with Discretionary more than 20% below its peak and Tech closing in on that traditional ‘bear market’ threshold itself.
Information Technology represents more than a quarter of the benchmark S&P 500 index, and stocks as a whole won’t be going anywhere without the help of their largest component. But that doesn’t mean other areas of the market can’t generate positive returns in this tough environment. A handful of industries are doing more than just outperforming a falling market – they’re setting new absolute highs.
It’s no real surprise that Energy stocks have held up well. Supported by favorable supply dynamics, oil prices are at their highest level in years. The stock prices of producers are surpassing highs, too. The Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry just broke through its 2018 peak.
The Energy Equipment & Services industry hasn’t recouped its own 2018 highs yet, but it has completely erased the COVID selloff and now sits above a key rotational level from 2019. The high from that year could be the next resistance level to break.
Other commodity-related stocks have seen similar strength. The Metals & Mining industry broke out above its 2021 peak last month and is working its way steadily higher.
Construction & Engineering set a new all-time high just last week.
The industry hasn’t fully absorbed the resistance set up by the 423.6% extension of the 2018 decline, but clearing this level could pave the way for more gains. The next Fibonacci extension is up near $935, 45% higher from here.
Diversified Financial Services is setting new all-time highs, too. After spending much of 2021 consolidating above the 161.8% extension from the COVID collapse, the industry broke out in December and has continued higher despite the broad-market weakness.
The Multi-Utilities industry is above a multi-year resistance zone and just surpassed it’s pre-pandemic high on an intra-day basis. We should expect Utilities to outperform when stocks are falling, but they typically do so by falling less, not by continuing to rise.
Whether these groups of stocks can continue to buck the trend is anyone’s guess. But by setting highs against the backdrop of a falling market, they’re further proof that there’s always a bull market somewhere.
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