The Hidden Bull

by: Eddy Elfenbein

Eddy Elfenbein submits: This came as a surprise to me but the Morgan Stanley Consumer Index (CMR) is right at an all-time high. Earlier this year, the index took out its 2000 high, and it’s been slowly crawling higher ever since.

Ironically, Friday’s report on consumer confidence showed that it dropped to a three-month low. According to the AP, “Economists blamed the deterioration in confidence mostly on galloping energy prices and a cooling in the once-hot housing market.”

That may be true, but it’s not showing up in the shares of consumer stocks. Despite Wall Street’s sour mood, it’s important to remember that the market’s troubles since early-May have largely been confined to cyclical stocks (industrials, materials and technology in particular). Transportation stocks, like Expeditors (NASDAQ:EXPD), have been especially ugly lately.

We often talk about the stock market as if it’s one big stock that’s traded every day, but there are thousands of stocks in dozens of industries. Difficult markets don’t affect all stocks the same way.

Health care has been a little unusual. Normally, health care moves with the other consumer stocks, but the sector starting dropping in March. The good news, however, is that health care seem to be making up lost ground.

CMR Index Since 1993