After a spectacular six-year bull run, the U.S. stock market got caught up in a nasty web of never-ending worries. It all started with the collapse in oil prices . Then came the instability in Greece, global growth concerns and the uncertainty of the Fed rate hike. Persistent weakness in China and the slump in commodities aggravated the woes.
As a result, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones indices are trading in the red in the year-to-date frame, losing 1% and 2.3%, respectively (read: 5 ETFs Losing Half or More of Their Value in 2015 ).
But the trend might reverse heading into the winter holidays if Santa pays a call. A Santa rally has gained coinage in the investment world, referring to the increase in stock prices in the final week of the calendar year (i.e. between Christmas and New Year's Day) and extending into the first two days of the New Year. According to the 2016 Stock Trader's Almanac , the Santa Claus rally has yielded average positive returns of 1.4% in 34 of the past 45 holiday seasons since 1969.
Other research also confirmed this trend. If we dig into historical data dating back to 1896, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has a track record of gaining an average of 1.7% during this seven-day trading period. And this has happened 77% of the time.
Santa on The Way!
The Fed has raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade with a dovish view for future hikes. It is a clear signal that the U.S. economy has largely emerged from the impact of a financial crisis supported by solid labor market fundamentals and a gradually increasing inflation rate. This in turn has lifted consumer confidence providing a boost to the stock market, setting the tune for a Santa rally.
This is especially true as the stock market gained momentum at the start of this week with both the S&P 500 and Dow Jones gaining 1.7% each. Further, year-end seasonal factors such as holiday optimism, tax-related affairs, people investing their Christmas bonuses, short sellers going on vacation, and the "January effect" added to the strength. As such, Santa seems to be just round the corner but the rout in commodities and the resultant stress in the junk bond space could block its way. Nevertheless, the oil price has rebounded slightly from their 11-year low, bolstering hopes of a bullish market (read: How the Oil Crash Impacted the Junk Bond ETF World ).
As hopes start building for a Santa rally, we have highlighted a trio of ETFs and stocks that could provide investors with happy returns in the coming days and weeks.
ETFs to Buy
While there are a number of ETFs that are expected to benefit from the Santa Claus rally, we have highlighted three growth funds that have a higher potential to move upward when the markets go up. These products have been leading the broad market by a wide margin and have a top Zacks ETF Rank of 1 or 'Strong Buy. Further, these provide a broad play across various sectors rather than specific ones.
PowerShares Dynamic Large Cap Growth Portfolio ( PWB )
This ETF provides a pure exposure to the large cap growth segment of the broad U.S. equity market by tracking the Dynamic Large Cap Growth Intellidex Index. The fund is widely diversified across 50 securities with each holding less than 3.5% of total assets. From a sector look, consumer discretionary takes the top spot at 32% while information technology, healthcare and consumer staples round off the next three spots. The product has accumulated around $415.3 million in its asset base and charges 58 bps in fees per year. It gained 6.4% so far this year (read: 5 ETF Outperformers with 20% Plus Gains Year to Date ).
iShares Russell Top 200 Growth ETF ( IWY )
This fund offers exposure to 139 large U.S. companies whose earnings are expected to grow at an above-average rate relative to the market. It is concentrated in the technology sector and the top firm - Apple ( AAPL ) - occupies 8.2% of the basket while the other firms hold no more than 3.4% share. Consumer discretionary, healthcare and consumer staples also receive double-digit allocation each. The fund has amassed $559.3 million in AUM and has an expense ratio of 0.20%. IWY is up 5.6% in 2015.
First Trust Large Cap Growth AlphaDEX Fund ( FTC )
This fund provides a slightly active choice as it uses the AlphaDEX methodology to select the stock. The methodology seeks to narrow the large cap space to only the best positioned growth companies, eliminating the bottom ranked 25% of the stocks. This approach results in a basket of 177 stocks, which are widely spread across various securities with none holding more than 1.21% share. More than one-fourth of the portfolio is skewed toward consumer discretionary, followed by information technology (19.5%), healthcare (13.5%), consumer staples (13.0%) and industrials (12.8%). The product has $714.8 million in AUM and charges 63 bps in annual fees. It added 3.2% in the year-to-date time frame.
Stocks to Buy
For stocks, we have chosen three top picks using the Zacks Screener that fits our six criteria: a Zacks Rank #1, a Growth Style Score of 'A', Zacks Industry Rank within the top 15%, positive estimate revision for the current year, market cap of over 1 billion and year-to-date price performance in excess of the broad market returns. Here are the three chosen stocks (see: all the Large Cap ETFs here ).
American Woodmark Corp. ( AMWD )
Based in Winchester, VA, American Woodmark is a major manufacturer and distributor of kitchen cabinets and vanities for the remodeling and home construction markets in the United States. The company has seen solid earnings estimate revisions of 8 cents for the current quarter over the past 30 days and delivered positive earnings surprises in the last four quarters, with an average beat of 35.40%. The stock has a solid Zacks Industry Rank in the top 5% and has doubled its returns in the year-to-date time frame.
Integrated Device Technology Inc. ( IDTI )
Based in San Jose, CA, Integrated Device is engaged in designing, developing, manufacturing, and marketing a wide range of high-performance semiconductor products and modules for the communications, computing, and consumer industries worldwide. The company has seen earnings estimates rising by a penny for the current quarter over the past 30 days and delivered average positive earnings surprises of 10.04% in the last four quarters. Further, Integrated Device has an Industry Zacks Rank in the top 15% and gained over 37% this year.
Leidos Holdings Inc. ( LDOS )
Based in Reston, VA, Leidos Holdings delivers solutions and services in the national security, health, and engineering markets in the United States and internationally. It has seen earnings estimate revision of 3 cents for the current quarter over the past 30 days and generated an average earnings surprise of 22.44% in the last four quarters. The stock is up 27.3% this year and has an Industry Zacks Rank in the top 15%.
As the positive momentum starts to build in the market this week, Santa might definitely be on the way to give bountiful gifts to investors and set the tone for the New Year.