Economic Indicators

The U.S. economy is a very complex system, with indicators therefore ambiguous and difficult to interpret. To what degree do macroeconomics and the stock market go hand-in-hand, if at all? Do investors/traders: (1) react to economic readings; (2) anticipate them; or, (3) just muddle along, mostly fooled by randomness? These blog entries address relationships between economic indicators and the stock market.

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Do Any Style ETFs Reliably Lead or Lag the Market?

Do any of the various U.S. stock market size and value/growth styles systematically lead or lag the overall market, perhaps because of some underlying business/economic cycle? To investigate, we consider the the following six exchange-traded funds (ETF) that cut across capitalization (large, medium and small) and value versus growth:

iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) – large capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF) – large capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS) – mid-capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP) – mid-capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN) – small capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO) – small capitalization growth stocks.

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the style ETFs and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period August 2001 through December 2014 (161 months, limited by data for IWS/IWP), we find that: Keep Reading

Do Any Sector ETFs Reliably Lead or Lag the Market?

Do any of the major U.S. stock market sectors systematically lead or lag the overall market, perhaps because of some underlying business/economic cycle? To investigate, we examine the behaviors of the nine sectors defined by the Select Sector Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR), all of which have trading data back to December 1998:

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

Using monthly adjusted closing prices for these exchange traded funds (ETF), along with contemporaneous data for Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPY) as a benchmark, over the period December 1998 through December 2014 (193 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for December 2014. The actual total (core) inflation rate for December is lower than (lower than) forecasted.

The new actual and forecasted inflation rates will flow into Real Earnings Yield Model projections at the end of the month.

CPI and Stocks Over the Short and Intermediate Terms

Do investors reliably react over short and intermediate terms to changes in the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of the wealth discount rate? Using monthly total and core (excluding food and energy) CPI releases (for all items, not seasonally adjusted) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index open and close data for the period mid-January 1994 (the earliest for which release dates are available) through December 2014 (251 releases), we find that: Keep Reading

Use the U.S. LEI for Long-term Stock Market Timing?

Referring to “Leading Economic Index and the Stock Market”, a subscriber inquired about using the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. to generate long-term U.S. stock market timing signals, as follows:  

“How about using the LEI in the following fashion?

Buy when the LEI rises by 1.0 % from its lowest point in the prior six months.
Sell when the LEI falls by 1.5% from its highest point in the last six months.

I used 1% as a buy because bear markets can end abruptly, not because I was torturing the data to confess. You could use 1.5% and I think still have robust results…changes in trend, which are rare, seem to be helpful. I bought the LEI data from the Conference Board and did some testing by hand using the above going back to 1969. I think I found some interesting results. …It gave early sell in 2006… The signal date was the date of the release… Most of the benefit of the trading system comes within the last 14 years.”

Using the monthly change in LEI data from archived Conference Board press releases during June 2002 through October 2014 (146 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Components of U.S. Stock Market Returns by Decade

How do the major components of U.S. stock market performance behave over time? In his October 2014 paper entitled “Long-Term Sources of Investment Returns and a Simple Way to Enhance Equity Returns”, Baijnath Ramraika decomposes long-term returns from the U.S. stock market (as proxied by Robert Shiller’s S&P Composite Index) into four components:

  1. Dividend yield
  2. Inflation
  3. Real average change in 10-year earnings (E10)
  4. Change in the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings ratio (CAPE, or P/E10)

He further segments this decomposition by decade. Using his decomposition by decade for 1881 through 2010 (13 decades), we find that: Keep Reading

Housing Starts and Future Stock Market Returns

Each month, the Census Bureau announces and the financial media report U.S. housing starts (seasonally adjusted and annualized) as a potential indicator of future U.S. stock market returns. Release date is about two weeks after the month being reported. Moreover, new releases may substantially revise recent past releases, so that the Census Bureau historical data set effectively has a longer lag. Does this economic indicator convey useful information about future stock market returns? To investigate, we relate future S&P 500 Index returns to housing starts at the monthly release frequency. Using monthly data for the S&P 500 Index and for seasonally adjusted annualized housing starts over the period January 1959 through September 2014 (621 months), we find that: Keep Reading

New Home Sales and Future Stock Market Returns

Each month, the Census Bureau announces and the financial media report U.S. new home sales (seasonally adjusted and annualized) as a potential indicator of future U.S. stock market returns. Release date is about three weeks after the month being reported. Moreover, new releases may substantially revise recent past releases, so that the Census Bureau historical data set effectively has a longer lag. Does this economic indicator convey useful information about future stock market returns? To investigate, we relate future S&P 500 Index returns to new home sales at the monthly release frequency. Using monthly data for the S&P 500 Index and for seasonally adjusted annualized new homes sales over the period January 1963 through September 2014 (621 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Earnings per Share Growth in the Long Run

Can the U.S. stock market continue to deliver its historical return? In the preliminary draft of his paper entitled “A Pragmatist’s Guide to Long-run Equity Returns, Market Valuation, and the CAPE”, John Golob poses two questions:

  1. What long-run real return should investors expect from U.S. equities?
  2. Do popular metrics reliably indicate when the U.S. equity market is overvalued?

He notes that the body of relevant research presents no consensus on the answers to these questions, which both relate to long-term growth in corporate earnings per share. Recent forecasts for real stock market returns range from as low as 2% to about 6% (close to the 6.5% average since 1871), reflecting disagreements about how slow GDP growth, low dividends, share buybacks and the profitability of retained earnings affect earnings per share growth. The author introduces Federal Reserve Flow of Funds (U.S. Financial Accounts) and S&P 500 aggregate book value to gauge effects of stock buybacks. He also assesses the logic of using Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (CAPE or P/E10) as a stock market valuation metric. Using S&P 500 Index price and dividend data, related earnings data and U.S. financial and economic data as available during 1871 through 2013, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Unemployment Rate and Stock Market Returns

The business media and expert commentators sometimes cite the U.S. unemployment rate as an indicator of economic and stock market health, generally interpreting a jump (drop) in the unemployment rate as bad (good) for stocks. Conversely, investors may interpret a falling unemployment rate as a trigger for increases in the Federal Reserve target interest rate (and adverse stock market reactions). Is this indicator in fact predictive of U.S. stock market behavior in subsequent months, quarters and years? Using the monthly unemployment rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index data for the period January 1950 through September 2014 (777 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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