Another Warning Sign for U.S. Equities?

March 04, 2016

With U.S. equities posting their worst start to the year since 2009, opinions surrounding the path that equity markets will take during 2016 vary substantially. February saw a return to positive performance, yet equities remain in negative territory year-to-date. Based on company or economic specific fundamentals, a case can certainly be made to support further market appreciation. However, an alternative method to analyze the stock market is technical analysis. This approach focuses solely on the price movements of a stock or index. The underlying thesis behind this kind of analysis is that fundamental data is already factored into a stock’s price.

The chart above shows S&P 500 index price levels from January 1999 through February 2016. Its 10-month and 20-month moving averages are plotted alongside it. Analysis of moving averages helps to identify bullish or bearish signals in the market. When the shorter time period moving average falls below the longer time period moving average, this indicates that negative price momentum is occurring and likely to persist. Conversely, when the shorter time period moving average rises above the longer time period moving average, this indicates that positive price momentum is occurring and likely to continue.

Over the time period shown, the 10-month moving average has only experienced a negative crossover event below the 20-month moving average on two occasions: March 2001 and May 2008. In both of these instances, equity markets subsequently experienced a significant decline. At the end of February 2016, the 10-month moving average officially crossed below its longer-term 20-month moving average. Utilizing this method of market analysis, equity markets may be signaling the early stages of a market drawdown. Only time will tell if this prediction actually comes true. However, as dire as this analysis may seem, it is important to note that equity markets have historically provided strong returns over the long term despite an occasional pullback.

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

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