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“Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.” – “Truckin'”, Grateful Dead
Strange may be the understatement of the century when it comes to the last twelve months. One year ago today, the S&P 500 closed at an all-time high as COVID was ravaging China and quietly spreading around the world. What made the S&P 500’s new high even more impressive was the fact that just two days earlier, Apple (AAPL) issued a profit warning due to the fact that factory closures in China would constrain supply. Still, the market bounced back and rallied, It would only be a couple of days later over the weekend that reports of an outbreak in Italy brought it home that COVID wasn’t just a China problem. The following Monday, global equities plummetted, and within basically a month, the S&P 500 lost a third of its value. While the path of the equity market since the March lows has been pretty steady to the upside, everything else has been, to say the least, a strange trip. We’re all hoping for a quick return to normalcy, but if the last year has taught us anything, things often only seem to get stranger by the day.
In market news today, futures are higher while gold and crude oil have pulled back. In economic data, Markit PMI data around the world has generally topped expectations in the manufacturing sector but hasn’t been quite as positive in the more important services sector. Later this morning, we’ll get the same updates for the US economy.
Be sure to check out today’s Morning Lineup for updates on the latest market news and events, earnings reports from around the world, flash PMI data, an update on the latest national and international COVID trends, and much more.
As we look back on the one-year anniversary of the S&P 500’s pre-COVID high, it’s pretty amazing to think that the S&P 500’s YTD performance this year (4.5%) is nearly identical to the YTD performance on this same day in 2020 (4.6%). If that sense of deja vu makes you nervous, we would note that the similarities are only skin deep. Underneath the surface, the equity market’s rally this year doesn’t look a whole lot like last year.
The chart below shows the performance of S&P 500 sectors on a YTD basis as of the close on 2/18 last year versus this year. Last year (blue bars), the sectors leading the rally included Technology and yield sensitive sectors like Utilities and Real Estate. On the downside, Energy and Materials were the only two sectors down on the year. This year, Energy is leading the way higher with a gain of just under 20%, while Financials and Communications Services are both up over 8%. In fact, looking at the three leading (and lagging) sectors this year none of the top (or bottom) three performing sectors were the top (or bottom) three performing sectors at this point last year. Conversely, none of the top (or bottom) three performing sectors at this point last year were the top (or bottom) three performing sectors at this point this year. As the saying goes, you’ve got to play the hand your dealt.