After three weeks of waiting, the S&P 500 finally joined the Dow in the record books. Last Thursday, the most widely tracked index in the United States closed at 1,569.19 -- taking out its previous all-time high of 1,565.15, which was hit on Oct. 9, 2007. Who cares? After all, it’s just a number, right? Well, I do. You'll recall that I went out on a limb and told you to expect it to happen. So I'd like to say, "I told you so!" (Just being honest.)
In all seriousness, though, the market hitting new records presents an opportunity for reflection. Or as Erik Davidson, deputy chief investment strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank, says: "It is a milestone; it does cause you to stop and evaluate where you are and where you come from." Indeed. So let's do just that today. Let's slice and dice the data on the market's latest run-up. By doing so, I promise that we'll reveal some unexpected insights as well as some potential investment opportunities.
Stock Stat No. 1: Talk of a Tired Bull Is Total Bull
So far, we're four-plus years into a bull market. And the S&P 500 has risen more than 130%. Even though I told you not to before, it's only natural to assume that such a sustained and significant rally is close to the longest on record. But it's not. In fact, this is only the sixth-longest bull market since 1929 (the year the market crashed), according to an analysis by Bank of America.
Stock Stat No. 2: First In, First Out?
It's often said that the sectors that get us into a mess are the ones that must lead us out. Well, that's certainly happening. Since the market bottom, the two top-performing sectors are financials and consumer discretionary. They're up 192% and 233%, respectively. In other words, corporate banking and conspicuous consumption have come back in a big way.
Here's a key observation, though: Financial stocks still have plenty of room to run. Since the last market peak on Oct. 9, 2007, the financial sector is still down 49%. And if you're wondering what the best-performing sector is since October 2007, it's consumer staples. Let that serve as a reminder: When this bull market comes to an end, we should load up on defensive names in the sector. That is, if you want to soften the impact of the next downturn. (Hint: You should.)
Stock Stat No. 3: Nowhere Near a Record
If we take into account the "thief that robs us all" (inflation), the S&P 500 isn't even close to a new all-time high. According to calculations by JPMorgan, the inflation-adjusted peak for the S&P 500 is 2,065. To get there, stocks would need to rally another 31.6%. To which I can only respond, "Bring it!"
Stock Stat No. 4: Keep Betting On the Frontrunner
If the trend is our friend, we should push some chips in on the best-performing stock since the market hit rock bottom. And that distinction belongs to Wyndham Worldwide (WYN). Shares are up a mind-boggling 2,130% since March 2009, according to FactSet. What's more, its momentum has been accelerating over the last three months. Amazingly, though, the stock is not overly expensive. It trades for 15.4 times forward earnings, which is only about a 10% premium to the S&P 500.
Stock Stat No. 5: Don't Bet Against the United States
I served up a healthy dollop of patriotism on Friday. However, more is warranted today. Despite analysts downplaying the appeal of U.S. stocks compared to emerging markets stocks, the former is handily outperforming the latter in 2013. Year to date, the S&P 500 is up 10.6%. That compares to a 7.6% decline for Brazil’s Bovespa Index, a 2.9% stumble by India's SENSEX Index, a 2.7% decline for Russia's MICEX Index, and a 1.4% drop for China's Shanghai Index. The one country that's giving the United States a run for its money is, go figure, Japan. The Nikkei 225 Index is up more than 15% so far this year.