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Sector ETF Results Reveal Third-Quarter Clues

Stocks in this article: XLV XLU XLP IYZ SPY XLF XLE

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert ) -- At the start of the week, analysts were wondering whether or not stocks could "hold the line." Specifically, the bulls were simply hoping that the current price on the S&P 500 would stay above its 200-day moving average.

However, the S&P 500 had little trouble holding the 1263 level. In fact, by Thursday, June 30, the U.S. stock gauge rocketed skyward to 1320. That's a staggering 4.1% in four days!

Should investors pop the champagne corks? Only if they celebrate success in three-month calendar intervals. After all, the four-trading-session rally had more to do with the absence of horrific news than the emergence of exciting news.

Specifically, Greece approved austerity measures that should ensure that the troubled nation doesn't default this year. Jobless claims may not be decelerating, but they've stopped accelerating. And money managers made quarter-ending portfolio purchases for displaying popular positions in client reports (a.k.a. window dressing).

Is this the stuff that propels a sustainable summertime surge? Probably not. In fact, as much as it pains me to use "risk-on-risk-off" to describe the trading environment, the tiresome terminology is entirely accurate.

Consider the four-day rally and three-month momentum data for each of the 10 economic sectors:

The success of "steady Eddie" non-cyclicals across a three-month time period reflects the general apprehension that investors have about the world at large. That success is likely to hold up in the summer time. After all, the U.S. debt ceiling game of chicken won't end before a last minute deal is cut in late July or early August. High unemployment concerns will linger. Developing nations still have several more months of inflation-fighting ahead of them. And even with Greece on the back burner, other eurozone debtors are likely to face scrutiny in the coming months.

On the flip side, the success of economically sensitive cyclicals across the four-day rally reflects the removal of a major macroeconomic fear (i.e., sovereign debt default). With Greece not a threat to default in the immediate term, investors refocused on the microeconomic reality of corporate health; that is, valuations on share prices are exceptionally attractive. Forward P/Es of 13 for the Dow and the S&P 500? 11 for MSCI China? Earnings yields on stocks relative to comparable bond yields?

Expect earnings reports for cyclical stocks to keep on trucking. Yet, the uncertainty cyclical companies present about the future will keep these higher risk segments from breaking out in a big way. Moreover, expect earnings reports for non-cyclicals to be modest. Yet the reliability of future guidance may keep them at the top of the pack... at least until the debt ceiling is raised and the "soft patch" becomes less soft.

Disclosure Statement: ETF Expert is a website that makes the world of ETFs easier to understand. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial and/or its clients may hold positions in ETFs, mutual funds and investment assets mentioned. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert website. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships. You may review additional ETF Expert at the site.

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