There’s a ton of debate over whether or not the S&P 500’s 2022 closing low in October marked the start of a new bull market (20%+ rally on a closing basis without a 20% decline in between) or was just a pause in what is likely to be another leg lower. From the bear’s perspective, the tepidness of the rally off those October lows stands out. Already more than four months past those lows, the S&P 500 is only up 10.8%, and its maximum gain was 16.9%. It’s often said, that bottoms tend to be so short-lived that the market gives investors a narrow window to get in near the lows, but here we are 135 days removed from that October low, and the S&P 500 still hasn’t reached the 20% threshold for a bull market. To put that in perspective, to find a bull market where it took the S&P 500 longer to reach the 20% bull market threshold, you have to go back to 1962; the ten bull markets between then and now all reached the 20% point faster and the average number of days that elapsed from the closing low to 20% was 57 days.
Although the market’s rally off the October lows has been relatively muted, sector leadership since those lows has hardly been led by defensive sectors. As shown in the chart below, Utilities, Consumer Staples, and Health Care are all up since those October lows, but all three are also underperforming the S&P 500. Meanwhile, cyclical sectors like Materials, Industrials, Financials, and Technology are all handily outperforming the S&P 500. In addition, despite all the concern about higher rates, the Real Estate sector has still managed to outperform.
Looking more recently at sector performance YTD, it’s a similar trend. Consumer Discretionary, Technology, and Communication Services have all outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of at least 2x while defensive-oriented sectors are not only underperforming the market, but they’re also down YTD. The market may not exactly be following the bull market playbook, but sector leadership isn’t following a recessionary playbook either.
Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.