Trading Nation

Winning Main Street trade is moving too far, too fast, PNC's Amanda Agati says

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Strategist sees trouble brewing in a group serving as a proxy for Main Street

PNC Financial's Amanda Agati warns a winning Main Street trade may burn investors.

According to the firm's chief investment strategist, fundamentals don't support small cap value's recent strong run.

"If you just look at things from a forward P/E [price to earnings] perspective, small cap value is at an all-time high, if you can believe it," she said on CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Thursday. 

Over the past three months, the Russell Small Cap Value Index has rallied more than 19% versus the broader S&P 500 which is up about 16% in the same period. Agati finds it troublesome.

"There's a big disconnect between the haves and have nots as it relates to Wall Street and certainly Main Street," she said.

In a special note to CNBC, Agati explained it's important pay attention to the growth backdrop and debt levels.

"This is night and day with what happened in 2000 — small and mid were not anywhere near this debt burdened back then," she wrote.

She doesn't feel the way about the Nasdaq 100, which has soared more than 22% in the last three months.

Even though big tech and the popular FAANG names Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet pulled back sharply on Thursday, Agati is optimistic the record rally will resume.

"The QQQ [Invesco QQQ Trust], which is a proxy for the Nasdaq 100, is barely half of its valuation level of what it was back in the dot-com era," she added. "We are in a very growth starved world. When you incorporate growth, it makes the Qs look even more attractive on a relative basis."

Agati notes the performance gap between the Nasdaq 100 and small cap value is now the widest since 2000.

"We've seen a lot of comparisons talking about the dot-com era, and a bubble that relates to the Nasdaq 100. But in our view these comparisons are not warranted," she said. "The Nasdaq 100 really shares as set of common, really attractive characteristics: Secular revenue growth drivers, strong profitability metrics and they're throwing off a ton of free cash."

When it comes to the broad markets, Agati is near-term cautious. She's concerned about the rally's breadth off the March 23 low and the impact of surging coronavirus cases. 

"We're going to be range bound for a while," Agati said. "Bouncing off historic lows is not justifiable to keep this market going. We really need to start seeing fundamental strength in earnings growth, and we haven't seen that yet."

Disclaimer

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PNC's Amanda Agati: Problem isn't with big tech, it's small cap value