Sector Breadth Confirms Broad Equity Strength

Want to find something bearish on the market? It’s not hard to throw a rock and find a piece of pessimistic data or commentary that will feed an equity bears appetite. I know my personal bias is to lean more cautious when evaluating the markets, but when the data that I rely on is telling me something different I must respect what its showing. That brings me the market’s breadth, specifically the Advance-Decline Line, which has confirmed the recent strength in U.S. equities (here and here).

We can take this breadth analysis a step further by looking at the individual sectors, and seeing if the strength in the broad market’s breadth is relying heavily on just a few sectors or if strength is stretched across the entire market. Below I have listed the nine S&P sectors using price only data (not adjusting for dividends) and their respective Advance-Decline Lines. The Advance-Decline Line simply adds and subtracts the number of stocks going up and down in a cumulative total. If more stocks are rising, the line will rise and vice versa when more stocks are declining. I use this type of indicator to understand if there’s support for an underlying price movement. If a market or ETF breaks out, I prefer to see broad participation by the underlying stocks.

Materials
While the sector itself is still nearly 8% off its high, its respective Advance-Decline (A-D) Line is already nearly back to its prior high.Materials

Energy
While the Energy sector ($XLE) is still in a down trend of lower highs and lower lows, it’s breadth has improved somewhat as it advances with price to challenge its prior high.Energy

Financials
Financials ($XLF) have been one of the worst performing sectors YTD, largely attributed to the declining yield curve. However, when looking at the performance of the individual financial names, the $XLF A-D Line is already at a new high.financial

Industrials
When taking into account dividends, $XLI is already at a new high but when looking at just price it still sits a few cents under its 2015 peak. But once again, the sector’s breadth measurement has already set a new high. industrial

Technology
Tech ($XLK) is right at its 2016 high and is just itching to breakout and so far it has the full support of its A-D Line as it broke its April ’16 high back in June.
technologyConsumer Staples
$XLP has been in a clear up trend as it makes new highs in price for the bulk of the last year. What about its Advance-Decline Line? Yep, right there with it as it marches higher.
consumer staples

Utilities
Utilities ($XLU) has been one of the stronger performing sectors YTD, clearing its 2015 high back in May. It’s A-D Line has created almost a straight line higher as individual utility names retain their up trends.utilities

Health Care
The Health Care ($XLV) sector still sits below its high but has recently broken above a level of resistance around $73. The A-D Line for the sector has been leading price higher, having already made a new high.health care
Consumer Discretionary
The Consumer Disc. ($XLY) sector is just under its prior high but its breadth has already broken out.consumer disc

As you can see, from a breadth perspective using the sector’s individual Advance-Decline Lines, the market appears to be much healthier than what the macro economists would lead you to believe. I understand profit margins are contracting, margin debt is high, Europe is falling apart but there is a difference between economies and markets, and we’re seeing a clear separation when looking at the major nine S&P sectors and their respective breadth indicators.

While it’s possible we see the market digest these gains and see some type of back-filling, it’s hard to argue that the current up trend is anything but strong based on the underlying breadth strength in the S&P sectors.

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

About Andrew Thrasher, CMT

Andrew Thrasher, CMT is a Portfolio Manager for an asset management firm in Central Indiana. He specializes and writes about technical analysis as well as macro economic developments.