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Tuning Out the Noise: What Are Stocks Telling Us?

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Recession worries. Lingering inflation. Bank failures.

A host of concerns remain in the current investment landscape, but the fact is it’s rare to find a time throughout history where there were no concerns at all. There are a lot of doubters out there, and we should welcome the widespread pessimism with open arms. It’s what great bull markets are built upon.

The stock market is forward-looking, and stocks were hit hard in 2022 in anticipation of a downturn this year. But the headwinds from last year have now evolved into tailwinds. Declining inflation (albeit at a slower pace than expected), lower treasury yields, and an economy that continues to chug along bode well for market returns this year.

There is a real possibility that we have entered a quiet bull market. Many investors have questioned the validity that the bear market has ended. This increased skepticism can help fuel gains throughout the remainder of this year. As the saying goes, bull markets climb a wall of worry.

Let’s take a step back and look at some reasons to be optimistic.

Sector Outperformance

Tech has been dominating this year, with the Nasdaq leading the charge.After dropping more than 30% peak to trough during the bear market, the tech-heavy index has come roaring back to life and is up about 12% year-to-date.

This bullish rally has been fueled by large moves coming from beaten down, oversold tech stocks. In a new bull market, the stocks that got hit hardest typically lead the way back up. Think technology, consumer discretionary, and communication services.

And oddly enough, it is these three sectors that are up the most since the start of the year, with communication services (+17.4%) bolstering the bullish case. Stocks like Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META - Free Report) have soared, while last year’s energy leaders have taken a backseat.

META is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock that is witnessing positive earnings estimate revisions. META most recently delivered Q4 earnings results back in February of $3.00/share, a 41.5% surprise over the $2.12 Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Image Source: StockCharts

Meta Platforms is attempting to become more efficient and has just announced yet another series of layoffs affecting the tech industry. META shares responded favorably and have advanced more than 70% this year.

Technology tends to outperform during bullish cycles, and underperform during bear markets. And that’s exactly what we’ve witnessed between this year and last.

Positive Seasonality

The current part of the calendar has the bulls beaming, as the back half of March along with April are historically bullish. Dating back to 1950, March is typically a strong month in pre-election years, up about 2% on average. April is the second strongest month in pre-election years (after January), up better than 3% on average.

Earlier this year, the S&P 500 spent over a month above its 200-day moving average (not something you normally see in bear markets). In fact, dating back to 1950, there are zero recorded instances where the S&P 500 reached bear market territory (down 20% from its closing high), rebounded above its 200-day moving average for at least a month, and then went back down to make new lows.

Remember, pre-election years are the strongest year of the entire 4-year presidential cycle (up nearly 17% on average since 1950). And don’t forget that under new Presidents, the gains are normally enhanced – up better than 20% on average:

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Fed Looks to Pause in May

Inflation measures have also continued to come down, and the path for future rate hikes has become less concerning. After this most recent 25-bps hike, markets are now pricing in a greater than 80% chance of a pause in May:

CME Group
Image Source: CME Group

A spring rally may be just around the corner, as positive seasonality, strong sector performance, and a less hawkish Fed all bode well for returns moving forward. Be sure to explore all that Zacks has to offer so that you can take full advantage of the potential momentum.

Disclosure: I currently own a position in META.

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