"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. " -- Mark Twain
So far, the month of January is proving to be a solid win for the Bulls. And, while the major market mover for the remainder of the month probably will be found in the earning season numbers yet to come, a series of macroeconomic trends seem as if support for the upward trend should continue, perhaps deep into the first quarter of the year.
All three of the major indices hit black numbers for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was up 1.2%, while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) gained 0.95%. The Nasdaq (COMP) made the cut as well, though just barely, showing a 0.29% profit.
What is way more impressive are the numbers for the indices year-to-date, with the Dow up 4.16%, the SPX up a bit more at 4.19% and the Nasdaq bringing in the rear at a 3.82%. Expanding the bullish numbers a bit further, both the Dow and the SPX hit a five-year high as of market close on Friday.
Investors apparently have a low level of fear and a high level of complacency, as the VIX, used as something of a proxy to indicate market sentiment in relationship to uncertainty and referred to commonly as "the fear gauge," currently sits at a five-year low as well.
There is a measure of support on the macroeconomic front for the Wall Street equity trend to continue towards the upside, at least in the short term.
The eurozone, which has been the source of major consternation for much of 2012, seems to be achieving a certain level of equilibrium, though that bar is decidedly set to the low side. Both Italian and Spanish bonds, which have served as a barometer of health for the region, have seen yields fall to levels that are considered to reflect an acceptable level of cost of debt to the governments of Italy and Spain.
Another factor that could help the eurozone, which is currently mired in recession, can be found in last week's regional German elections, which found Angela Merkel's party suffering a defeat in northwestern Germany. The defeat may bode well for the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain), who might find a more sympathetic tone, in terms of policy accommodation, with a German government leaning more towards the liberal side.
Another possible point of market support could be found in Japan, where the Bank of Japan is expected to continue to implement a greater degree of stimulus to that country's economy, following the lead of its newly elected prime minister. The aggressive monetary moves are being used as a method of jolting the moribund Japanese economy out of a long bout with stagflation, and the moves, which would undoubtedly weaken the yen, could serve to improve Japan's economy enough to influence the broader global economy.
Some of the likely candidates that could hinder an up-trending market would include Algeria, which is presently in flux and could potentially send up the price of oil, or an increase in China-Japan tensions arising from the Senkaku Island dispute.
But for the moment, at least, earnings will likely decide if the Bulls will continue to stake a claim towards the first real trend of Wall Street, circa 2013.
What the Periscope Sees
This week, the healthcare Sector returns to the top of the SectorCast ETF Rankings leaderboard. The Rankings rate each of the ten U.S. industrial sector iShares (ETFs) by our proprietary Outlook Score and are revised on a weekly basis. Here is a list of some of this year's top performing Healthcare Sector ETFs to date, as of the third week of January:
XBI -- SPDR S&P Biotech ETF, +8.88%
FXH --First Trust Health Care AlphaDEX Fund, +7.18%
IHI -- iShares Dow Jones US Medical Devices Index Fund, +7.01%
IHE -- iShares Dow Jones US Pharmaceuticals Index Fund, +6.50%
VHT -- Vanguard Health Care Index, +5.97%
As an alternative to buying the ETFs themselves, consider purchasing call options as a way to leverage your portfolio's funds. Towards this end, you could use May expiration calls, two or three strikes out-of-the-money. Though you do pay a premium when buying any options, volatility levels are hitting recent historical lows. This provides options buyers with a somewhat lower cost, as is usually the case when volatility levels are on the low side.
Full disclosure: The author does not personally hold any of the ETFs mentioned in this week's "What the Periscope Sees."