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As the S&P sputters, growth stocks surge

While the S&P 500 is essentially flat on the year, growth stocks have been, well, growing.

A basket of 40 stocks that are showing secular growth has risen more than 15 percent in 2015, versus a rise of just over 1 percent for the overall S&P index.


To construct the basket, RBC Capital Markets selected those nonfinancial companies showing revenue growth greater than 7.5 percent. This captures tech stocks like Facebook and Salesforce.com, consumer discretionary names like Under Armour and Netflix, and health-care stocks like Allergan and Biogen, among other names and sectors.

Some might take the growth stocks outperformance as a short-term trend, and perhaps the harbinger of a relative decline for the group. But RBC's chief U.S. market strategist, Jonathan Golub, says the macro environment makes the move rational.

"In a slower-for-longer economic environment, secular growth companies—those less dependent on GDP—should outperform," he wrote in a Monday note. "Furthermore, an analysis of these names indicates that their top-line fundamentals should continue to improve relative to the broad market."

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He doesn't expect that to change once the Federal Reserve raises rates, either.

"We actually looked at what happened to growth stocks when interest rates rise, and what you find is that those are the days that they do the best," Golub said in a Monday "Trading Nation" interview. That would imply that rising rates are no harbinger of doom for secular growers.

Taking a technical tack, Craig Johnson of Piper Jaffray is similarly bullish on growth names.

"Growth stocks have been outperforming value stocks, they have been since the end of Q1 2014, and I don't see any reason for that to change," Johnson said Monday on "Trading Nation," using a comparison of the Russell 1000 growth index with the Russell 1000 value index.


"I agree that growth stocks are going to continue to work, and that is really where we want to be at this point in time," Johnson said.

A third way to look at momentum stocks, the Dow Jones U.S. thematic market neutral momentum index, is up 10.5 percent this year.

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Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F,1PM-3PM ET), one of the network's longest running programs, as well as the host of the daily investing program "Trading Nation." He is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and other NBC properties.

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