Something pretty strange happened in the market

2015 losers turn into early winners

How's this for a role reversal?

On a bitter opening to 2016 for markets, Monday's three best performers — Chesapeake Energy, Consol Energy, and Southwestern Energy — were the worst performers of 2015. Even stranger, they finished in the same order on the Monday leader board that they did on the 2015 loser board:

role reversal 150105

Stock Monday % Change 2015 % Change
Chesapeake Energy 10.0%-77.0%
CONSOL Energy8.5%-76.6%
Southwestern Energy8.4%-73.9%

What makes the action even more unusual is that it can't be pegged to oil. All three stocks are highly levered to raw energy prices, which explains their horrific slides in 2015. But while crude oil gained Monday morning, oil eventually gave back those gains and then some. And after pausing while oil plummeted, all three stocks eventually found their way far higher than where they sat with crude at its Monday highs.

"Part of the reason they bounced back yesterday could be tax selling from last year and just a rebalancing as we go into the new year," said Boris Schlossberg, a macro trader and strategist with BK Asset Management.

In other words, investors may have sold out of their losing positions toward the end of 2015 in order to generate capital losses to write off against gains or income, only to initiate new positions in the beginning of 2016.

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But something more profound may also be at play.

"You could have a 'dogs of the world' effect as we get a little bit of mean reversion in some of these names that have just been terribly beaten down over the last year, and the dynamics could be very much favorable to them as they go forward," Schlossberg said.