The Nasdaq Composite (GIDS) led the markets lower on Friday, falling more than 1.92%. As you might expect with the Nasdaq leading the fall, the information technology sector was the worst-performing sector. The Technology Select Sector Index ($IXT) closed 1.65% lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) did much better than the Nasdaq by closing 0.17% lower. Despite the stronger day, the Dow has actually strung together four down weeks in a row by falling 2,000 points, more than 5% from its November peak.
The VIX (Cboe Market Volatility Index) traded back to January of 2021 levels, reaching as high as the 35 mark on Friday before dropping back to the 30 level. Fear and uncertainty appear to be growing among investors who are trying to digest a worse-than-expected jobs report that came out Friday morning. The economy was expected to add 550,000 jobs in November but only added 210,000. Despite the lackluster job growth, it wasn’t bad enough for the Fed to be unlikely to back off its tapering plans.
Along with the technology stocks, gaming stocks were hit hard. DraftKings DKNG was down the most at nearly 9%. However, Penn National Gaming PENN, Caesars CZR, and Scientific Games SGMS were all about 4% lower on the day.
Passing Over Pandemic Plays
Gaming stocks were popular pandemic stock plays when people were stuck at home and looking for something to do. These are the types of stocks that appear to be getting hit despite the oncoming threat of the Omicron variant. Even “meme” stocks like AMC AMC and GameStop GME that epitomized pandemic speculations play traded on Friday as low as 14% and 11% respectively. Additionally, Peloton PTON, Zoom ZM, and Adobe ADBE were very popular when more people were working from home, but they are now selling off as investors take profits and start focusing on value stocks.
At the height of the pandemic, social media played a big part in people’s lives, but now people seem to be using the platforms less. Social media stocks are getting hit with Meta FB falling 1.14%, Snap SNAP trading down 2.34%, Pinterest PINS dropping 4.69%, and Twitter TWTR falling 1.36%. In contrast, traditional media companies were up on Friday, with ViacomCBS VIAC trading 5.11% higher, Discovery DISCA climbing more than 3.18%, and Fox (FOX) rising 1.91%. The difference is that these companies have lower price-to-earnings, price-to-book, and other valuation ratios.
Older, more traditional companies that have more appealing valuations appear to be attracting more investors. Some examples are Walgreens Boots WBA rising more than 4.28%, Walmart WMT rising 1.51%, Procter & Gamble PG up about 1.78%, Tyson Foods TSN climbing 2.24%, Campbell Soup CPB rallying 1.51%, and General Mills GIS closing 2.18% higher.
Flight to Quality
On top of valuations, when volatility increases and stocks sell-off, it’s common to see investors start moving into old “Blue Chip” companies. These are usually big companies that have been around for a long time. They also have a history of navigating hard times. This is one reason why there was such a discrepancy between the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq on Friday. The Dow is made up of 30 mega-cap stocks, and most of them have been around a long time. The Nasdaq is heavily weighted to technology stocks that are more growth-oriented.
Additionally, many investors moved into what is called defensive stocks. Not to be confused with defense stocks that make military equipment, defensive stocks are those that tend to perform better during sluggish or bearish markets. They include sectors like utilities, consumer staples, and health care. These are goods and services that consumers need no matter what the economy is doing. In fact, the Consumer Staples Select Sector Index ($IXR), Utilities Select Sector Index ($IXU), and the Health Care Select Sector Index ($IXV) were the top-performing sectors on Friday.
CHART OF THE DAY: DROPPING THE BASE. The Consumer Staples Select Sector Index ($IXR—left), the Utilities Select Sector Index ($IXU—center), and the Health Care Select Sector Index ($IXV—right) have been underperforming the S&P 500 index but have been showing strength under examination of their respective relative strength indicators. Data Sources: ICE, S&P Dow Jones Indices. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Market leadership change can cause a lot of volatility as the top-performing stocks start seeing investors scale back or leave and move into other sectors and groups. Stocks like Meta FB, Amazon AMZN, Apple AAPL, Alphabet GOOGL, Netflix NFLX, and Tesla TSLA have been market leaders for a long time but are experiencing some selling. That doesn’t mean that these are bad companies or that they are no longer good stocks. It just means that some investors see them as overvalued.
The fourth quarter has been a bit hectic—it started strong in the energy, materials, and financial sectors. Then consumer discretionary and technology came alive for a time. Recently, oil prices have dropped and taken yields with them and really muddied the picture. As investors change their portfolios in preparation for the new year, new leadership among the sectors will rise.
TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.
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