How much longer can consumer oriented stocks defy gravity?
Although the sector has been leading the surge in U.S. stocks, red
flags abound. Let's analyze the headwinds facing this
Do stock market fundamentals matter anymore or is hopium still
driving the car? S&P 500 companies (NYSEARCA:SPY) in the
consumer discretionary sector (NYSEARCA:XLY) are projected to
report Q1 earnings growth of just 8% according to Thomson Reuters
data. Here's the problem: Just two months ago, Wall Street's
analysts were forecasting EPS growth of 13% for this group and last
October they were expecting an even higher 16% growth rate.
Nobody knows if 8% EPS growth is the right figure, but assuming
it is, it would translate into the weakest growth rate for XLY over
the past six quarters.
Cuts in Consumer Spending
An online poll of 1,538 people conducted March 4-8 by Reuters/Ipsos
showed that two-thirds of Americans say they are reducing their
monthly spending this year. And in case you're wondering, the
remaining people surveyed are not increasing their spending. This
is hardly a bullish backdrop for consumer stocks. (Just in
February, we wrote about an
internal memo at Wal-Mart
describing how sales at the retail gaint were off to their
worst start in 7-years.
For further evidence that consumers are being pinched by rising
gas prices and the 2% hike in payroll taxes, fewer people are
At least three national restaurant chains - Olive Garden parent
Darden Restaurants Inc (
) IHOP parent DineEquity Inc (
) and Chili's parent Brinker International Inc (
) - have said they are seeing fewer customers, according to a
Reuters report. Also, people that are still eating out are spending
less per visit.
Jobless Rate Still Double Digit
Contrary to widespread reports of improvement in the job market,
there are no statistically significant declines in joblessness.
In February 2013, the seasonally adjusted U-6* jobless rate was
14.3% compared to a 2012 average of 14.7%.
Furthermore, the Economic Cycle Research Institute reported that
"Year-over-year payroll jobs growth has fallen to an 18-month low,
and year-over-year household jobs growth has fallen to a 16-month
*Although the news media regularly reports the U-3 headline
figure and ignores the more robust U-6 figure, we regularly
highlight the latter. The U-6 number is far more complete because
it includes total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers,
plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of
the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.
U.S. Consumer Focused ETFs
The Consumer Discretionary SPDR ETF (
) owns 82 stocks within the S&P 500 that include automakers,
consumer durables, apparel, hotels, restaurants, leisure, media,
and retailers. This sector represents around 11.6% of the S&P
500 and includes companies like Amazon.com, Starbucks, and
The Consumer StaplesSPDR ETF (
) owns 42 stocks within the S&P 500 that cover food and drug
retailing, beverages, food products, tobacco, household products,
and personal products. Holdings within the more defensive oriented
XLP include Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, and Coca-Cola. The
sector represents around 10.74% of the S&P 500.
Inverse performing ETFs like the ProShares UltraShort Consumer
Services ETF (NYSEARCA:SCC) and ProShares UltraShort Consumer Goods
ETF (NYSEARCA:SZK) are designed to increase in value when consumer
stocks fall. Both funds use daily leverage of -200%.
In summary, market irrationally can last over long stretches,
but it never lasts indefinitely. Prudent investing means being
ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter
uses relative strength analysis along with common sense technical
analysis to provide a short, mid, and long-term forecast along with
actionable buy/sell recommendations. This is how we identify key
trend changes in the sectors as well as the broader markets.
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