Most Hated Bull Market Ever? Maybe It Should Be
If this is the most-hated bull market ever, as has been suggested, maybe there's good reason for it.
While the rally this year looks good on paper—as any 15 percent S&P 500 gain by early July would—it has come on the backs of some of the ugliest internals you could imagine.
Just look at the qualities the biggest gainers share: Low price-to-earnings ratios, zero dividend yields, high short interest and lowest analyst ratings.
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It's not exactly a market that would win any beauty contests.
In fact, its best chance would be at a county farmers fair for "ugliest bull." And it's hard to love an ugly bull.
Jeffrey D. Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James, said he is mindful of the old market adage, "When they start running the dogs, it's time to start looking over your shoulder."
Saut believes the market is a week or two at most away from the first "meaningful decline of the year to commence."
While the S&P 500 shed about 5 percent in the immediate aftermath of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's warning that extreme monetary easing is about to unwind, the stock market index has erased all but 15 points or so of that decline.
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The quality of the rally—on low-quality stocks—as well as the weak earnings season prospects and discord in Washington over sequestration spending cuts and the debt ceiling could spell market trouble, Saut said.
Bespoke Investment Group breaks out the S&P 500 in 10 50-stock groups and breaks down their performance by type.
Among its findings:
- The 50 biggest stocks gained 13.3 percent; the 50 smallest stocks surged 21.9 percent.
- The 50 stocks with the lowest P/E ratios rose 26.7 percent; the 250 with the highest P/E ratios were up far less.
- Stocks with no dividend yield gained 19.9 percent, outperforming the high dividend-yielders, particularly as interest rates rose.
- The 50 stocks with the weakest analyst ratings surged 22.7 percent.
Actually, there might be some love out there for the ugly bulls stampeding through Wall Street.
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Jim Paulsen, the chief market strategist at Wells Capital Management, said the high-beta qualities of the best performers are exactly what you would expect of a market getting its mojo back after years of no confidence.
"The stuff you just named coming into leadership is the essence of confidence. When confidence emerges everything you just listed would be at the top of your list to buy," Paulsen said in a phone interview.
"What this rally's about—even going back to last fall—is about giving up the Armageddon ghost and accepting that this is a more sustainable recovery," he added. "If you suddenly developed confidence in sustainability you wouldn't latch onto low-beta high-dividend stocks. You'd put on a little octane."
That octane, though, looks like it's fueling a lot of old junkers.
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him @JeffCoxCNBCcom on Twitter.