Coming into this week, we’ve seen more new highs than new lows every day so far this year. Improved breadth helped fuel a higher high for the S&P 500. But with the index dropping back into its December range and new highs struggling to expand, the going, for now, is getting rough.
More Context: If our perspective just goes back to the late-September/early-October lows, the pattern on the S&P 500 is an encouraging higher low followed by a higher high accompanied by improving breadth. If we push back a little further, we still get breadth improvement but the S&P 500 pattern is more ambiguous. This month’s higher high could be an eerie inverse of last fall’s lower low (which quickly reversed), though we haven’t seen enough deterioration to this point to argue for more defensive tactical positioning. So long as the S&P 500 is above the June lows and below the August highs, acknowledging that sideways is a direction would not be inconsistent with the cyclical weight of the evidence that is in balance between risk and opportunity. Focusing our attention on areas that are above their August highs keeps us in harmony with relative leadership and underlying strength. For some investors this means unfamiliar equity exposure as we re-learn that diversification is not a dirty word.
In our Market Notes, we look within the US (though beyond the confines of the S&P 500 index) for evidence of leadership and signs of market stress.