With shares of FedEx (FDX) on pace for their second worst earnings reaction day since at least 2001, the Dow Transports, an index in which FDX has a weighting of over 8% (after today’s decline), is down close to 2%. Historically, the Transports have been considered a leading indicator of the economy, so the weakness in FDX, and by extension, the Dow Transports, is resulting in heightened concerns over the state of the economy. Looking at the chart below, the picture for the Transports doesn’t look pretty. The timing of today’s decline couldn’t have been worse as it came just as the Transports were attempting to break above the highs from July, but now it just looks like the second lower high this year. Following today’s declines, the Dow Transports are up 14.7% YTD which is about five percentage points behind the performance of the S&P 500.
Given the changes in the US economy over time, we’ve been skeptical of the continued predictive ability of the Transports, but even putting that aside for a moment, a broader look at Transports shows a less pessimistic picture. The chart below shows the performance of the stocks in the S&P 1500 index on an equal-weighted basis so far in 2019. By this measure, today’s decline comes after the index made a higher high, and while it’s back below those former highs today, with a gain of 20.5% YTD, this broader look at transports is still outperforming the S&P 500 on a YTD basis. It may not be a great picture for this group of transport stocks, but it doesn’t really look bad either. Start a two-week free trial to Bespoke Institutional for full access to our research and interactive trading tools.