It's funny: when you get treated like trash, you want to come back for more – it's human nature. It's kind of like the attraction the good girls have to the bad boys. This is especially true for "luxury" stuff. In fact, a 2014 study found that, for high-end luxury brands, authentically snobby and rude sales staff resulted in higher sales. Check out the study here.
To be honest, this reminds me of CNBC and the financial media. The more shocking and worrisome the headlines, the more people tune in. It's a model they thrive and rely on.
That got me thinking: Donald Trump must be awesome for media stocks. I dug into my data on 5,500 stocks and looked up the average three-year sales growth for media stocks. I looked at around 100 or so, and I found that number to be 27.3% per year. So, since his campaigning began and his presidency took shape, Trump been really good for media stocks. He may love to bash them in a tweetstorm, and they may act injured, but they secretly love him.
Media companies sell advertising, and they don't do so by selling stories of puppy dogs and moonbeams. They need to scare the heck out of you. And when they do, you tune in more!
And now, the media's all negative, the market's weak, there's fear of recession and trade wars, and so forth. But we've seen this all before. The latest is that Trump will slap a 5% tariff on goods coming from Mexico. Then he'll hike it every month until the migrant problem is "solved." I'm not going to minimize China and now Mexico tariffs – they're real. But the media is blowing the effects way out of proportion.
Once again, U.S. data is strong. The blended Q1 sales growth for the S&P 500 was 5.3%. And the first year of tariffs on China brought a price decrease for the first 12 months. I still believe that China and the U.S. need each other as trading partners and that this is a lot of posturing. I believe that we will get a resolution.
Selling in stocks has been gaining for weeks now, and our ratio measuring big buying versus selling has been falling in a straight line.
So, now what? On Thursday, we sent out an update saying that our ratio plummeted below 45.6%. And the several times it's done so in the past leads me to believe that we could see, perhaps, another 5% drop in prices in the stock market.
The following tables break down our unusual institutional (UI) buy and sell signals by sector and industry group.
Looking above, it appears that consumer discretionary is the worrisome sector, but it turns out that selling was orderly and even across that whole sector. It's energy that we have to worry about. Crude oil prices fell 10% last week. Most of the energy selling is in oil and gas stocks.
Having seen what happened with energy in 2014, I suspect that, with a downward move so intense in the physical commodity, we will continue to see selling pressure in oil and gas stocks. The lower the price of oil, the more the margins evaporate.
And should the companies be heavily levered, watch out! In fact, out of 246 oil and gas-related stocks, the average total debt to common equity ratio is 183%, and 75 oil and gas companies had a debt/equity ratio over 100%. This spells pain for heavily levered companies. When margins evaporate, the companies not only have to worry about profitability, but they now have to worry about debt service.
Does that mean I think a crash is coming? Absolutely not. Does that mean I think the correction is going to provide great opportunities to pick up great stocks? Look for the opportunity. We're getting our buy list ready.
Typically, when we see winning stocks with great sales and earnings growth, low debt, and all those fundamentals I look for – and institutional holdings – they're the ones that bounce the highest, the fastest, and the furthest.
I expect more volatility. But I also expect another bounce. Now is the time to go shopping for great stocks that might be going on sale. That's exactly what I'm going to be doing.
We are in the middle of a rare pullback from nasty headlines. Voltaire said, "History never repeats itself. Man always does." Humans will make the same mistakes again and again. The price action is normal. Those who panic lose in the long run. Corrections make healthy markets. If prices keep rising, it never ends well. Corrective price behavior is important for long-term bull markets. Just chill.
The Bottom Line
We (Mapsignals) continue to be bullish on U.S. equities in the long term, and we see any pullback as a buying opportunity. We expect unusual selling to slow in the coming weeks, thus creating a buying opportunity.
Disclosure: The author holds no positions in any stocks mentioned at the time of publication.