Not every stock market rally is created equal.
In the past month, the S&P 500 is up 4.76% on several positive developments, and a finer look at which sectors are performing potentially speaks volumes about how investors currently feel about the economy.
Before we dive into the last month, let's take a glance at the year through October 8. In that span, the S&P 500 rose 15%. That's an outsized gain compared to history, but it came as there were bouts of trade war escalation between the U.S. and China, while falling interest rates -- responding to a weakening economic picture -- were driving money into stocks (as well as treasuries). But the gains were actually lead by defensive sectors. Between January 1 and October 8, the Invesco S&P Consumer Staples ETF (XLP) rose 26%. The Invesco S&P Utilities ETF (RYU) rose 29%. The iShares Cohen & Steers REIT ETF (ICF) rose 28%. And the FAANG stocks didn't have the kind of stretch they're known for.
Investors were nervous about what was seen as a rising risk of a recession on a forward rolling 12 to 18 months basis, and they were hedging their cyclical and growth bets by also piling into safety. This provides low volatility, low likelihood of capital losses, and in some cases, better dividend yields than those of treasury bonds.
While the risk of a recession in the next year or so isn't going away by any stretch of the imagination with GDP growth for the third quarter decelerating to 1.9%, the market is incrementally more optimistic on growth. The potential for a trade deal is strong. Business confidence, investment and hiring could easily rebound. Meanwhile, the data is weak enough to elicit economic support via Fed interest rate cuts.
With this in mind, let's take a look at the nature of the rally we've seen in the last month.
It has been lead by cyclical stocks.
The Invesco S&P Industrials ETF (XLI) is up 5.61% in the past month, beating the S&P 500. Specifically, Caterpillar (CAT) , whose earnings report made it clearer than ever that the trade war impacts its demand profile in many ways, is up around 25% in the past month. United Technologies (UTX) is up 11% in the same span. Boeing undefined is down 4.5% as it battles issues with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq is up 6.15%. The FAANG group hasn't exactly crushed, maybe fittingly, as Wall Street has re-rated those stocks as less of a growth group than they used to be. Now, one could argue they're somewhere in between the broad categories of growth and value.
Meanwhile, consumer staples are down almost 5% in the past month. Utilities are down more than 7%.
Hammering home the point on incrementally more economic bullishness, The 10-year treasury yield has risen to 1.85% from 1.53%. Investors still want to see easy monetary policy, but many on Wall Street say the treasury market had gotten overextended, sending yields too low to reflect the expected Federal Reserve policy (bond yields fall when their prices rise).