Weekly ETF SPY: XLP – What Defensive Sector Outperformance Means

The defensive consumer staples sector has been outperforming the economically sensitive consumer discretionary sector. Some say that’s bearish, contrarians may say it’s bullish. Here’s what the facts say:

Defensive sectors like health care, consumer staples and utilities have been on fire. In fact, health care and consumer staples are the two best performing industry sectors of the U.S. stock market.

On paper, the strong showing of defensive sectors parallel to all-time stock market highs is odd. But let’s face it; the overall market action (meaning the QE bull market) is odd.

Defensive sector outperformance may be a reflection of investor suspicion. After all, owning defensive sectors is one way to ‘throw your hat in the ring’ without actually going all in.

To what extent are defensive sectors currently outperforming economically sensitive sectors?

The lower portion of the chart below shows the ratio of Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) to Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY). The XLP/XLY ratio is plotted against the S&P 500 (SPY).

We see that extreme XLP outperformance (red lines) in the mid-2000s either held back the S&P or led to a major market top. Extreme under performance (green line) was generally seen towards meaningful market lows.

Currently the XLP/XLY is more or less in neutral territory.

The second chart shows XLP’s 48.62% rally from the August 2011 low (since its corresponding October 2011 low the S&P 500 gained 47.63%).

XLP nearly touched resistance going back to that low, but is trading above short-term trend line support. The behavior of RSI suggests a tired up trend. A close below green support would be the first sign of a correction. A close above the red line would likely reinvigorate consumer staples stocks.

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Weekly ETF SPY: XLF – Running Into Resistance

Financials are the second most important industry sector of the S&P 500 Index. Right now the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) sports a curious correlation to an economic indicator, along with some directional clues.

Since 2007, the financial sector has tracked consumer sentiment closer than any other sector. The chart below plots the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) against the Thomson/Reuters University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.

Consumers aren’t nearly as confident now as they were in 2007 and the financial sector is far away from its 2007 high.

The comparison between consumer sentiment and XLF is more of anecdotal than predictive value, but the chart of XLF does provide some technical nuggets.

XLF is now trading above Fibonacci resistance at 18.21. This Fibonacci level corresponds to a 38.2% retracement of the points lost from 2007 – 2009.

The move above Fibonacci resistance is bullish and resistance now becomes support.

However, a resistance level made up of several lows reached in 2000, 2002, and 2003 is immediately ahead at 18.52 – 19.66.

Financials, as with the rest of the market, have enjoyed an incredible run, but investors have come to love financials a bit too much.

Current sentiment towards financials is almost the polar opposite to what the Profit Radar Report noted on August 5, 2012:

Financials are currently under loved (who can blame investors). Of the $900 million invested in Rydex sector funds, only $18 million (2%) are allocated to financials. With such negative sentiment a technical breakout (close above 14.90) could cause a quick spike in prices.”

The combination of sentiment extremes and upcoming resistance suggests that some type of correction is not far away. However, the correction may be more on the shallow side. Watch Fibonacci and trend line support for more clues.

Financials at 22-Month High – What Does this Mean for The S&P 500?

Pssst, no one is talking about it, but one industry sector has quietly climbed to new 22-month highs – Financials. Will their run continue, how can you tell when it’s over and how will it affect the stock market?

The financial media can’t see the forest for the trees or the stairs for the cliff.

So much ink is being spilled reporting Obama’s and Boehner’s latest comments, hints and lunch menu, that the media missed the financial sector’s march to new 22-month highs.

Will financials continue to edge higher, and what does the financial sector strength mean for the S&P 500 and other broad market indexes?

The chart below provides a nutshell summary of the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF).

1) Marks the technical breakout from a multi-week trading range. The Profit Radar Report expected this breakout on August 5, when it said:

“Financials are currently under loved. Of the $900 million invested in Rydex sector funds, only $18 million (2%) are allocated to financials. With such negative sentiment a technical breakout above 14.90 could cause a quick spike in prices.”

2) Shows that XLF never broke below the bold October 2011 trend line and never triggered a sell signal.

The strength in financials was one reason the Profit Radar Report maintained that the down side of the post September correction was limited and exited all short positions at S&P 1,348 and S&P 1,371 (and went long at S&P 1,424 last week).

3) Volume over the last couple of days has been solid.

4) RSI is lagging the September 14 high water mark and will be running into resistance. RSI may also set up a longer-term bearish divergence if it isn’t able to beat the September high.

XLF accounts for 15.42% of the broad SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and has the power to be the tail that wags the dog.

This price/RSI divergence in XLF might harmonize with my expectation for a large-scale market top sometime in Q1/Q2 2013.

There’s a newly formed support line (not shown in chart), which should be used as stop-loss for long positions.

No doubt by the time the media moves the spotlight on financials’ performance, the lion’s share of the gains will be already over.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.