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An ETF Portfolio For Lowering U.S. Stock Risk

Stocks in this article: VIG IWS PJP EEMV SDIV CWB CIU HYS PCY

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Treasury bonds are rocketing, commodities are reeling and the eurozone's economy is contracting. That is hardly the backdrop for continued equity price appreciation. Yet, the U.S. stock market has had little resistance in capturing all-time records.

Regardless of region, asset classes typically move in the same direction. It follows that one would not expect unabashed buying intrigue in U.S stocks when most European and most emerging market stocks are floundering.

Similarly, one would not anticipate increasing desire for safe-haven government bonds at the same time that "riskier" U.S. equities are demonstrating unflappability.

By the same token, with defensive non-cyclicals (i.e., health care, utilities, staples) logging the best year-to-date sector returns, one would be hard-pressed to express enthusiasm for near-term bullishness for the S&P 500.

Even the unconventional measures seem ominous. Bearish short interest on the S&P 500 is at the lowest level in 12 months. That should be music to the ears of the contrarian investor who might want to "short-sell" the major index. Meanwhile 90% of S&P 100 stocks are above a 200-day trendline -- a signal to many contrarians to consider "selling high."

Is it possible, however, that the only things that matter are $85 billion per month in Federal Reserve money printing combined with $60 billion of investor dollars flowing into U.S. stock funds through the end of March? According to TrimTabs, the $60 billion, three-month haul was the largest at any time since 2004. Undoubtedly, that has helped fire up the buying activity. Still, the first 10 months of 2004 were entirely flat for the S&P 500, putting a dent in the idea that fund flow alone can explain the monster price gains in early 2013.

In truth, where investors should go from here is the critical question worth pondering. Earnings results and guidance may be the most disappointing in years. Technical signals scream caution. Contrarian data favor a reversal in fortunes. Nothing in the global economic news wires suggests anything more than marginal growth buoyed by emergency level stimulus by the world's central banks.

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