Sector ETFs With Attractive P/S Ratios

 |  Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY, XLF
by: Gary Gordon

The bears have their hero in Nouriel Roubini. Yet the bulls have a star in Laszlo Birinyi, a long-time money manager who believes the cyclical bull market has just begun.

Birinyi’s belief is that the current rally may last through the presidential election of 2012. His evidence? He trusts price-to-sales more than price-to-earnings, and the P/S ratio for the S&P 500 is 1.3. That’s a 15% discount to the previous decade’s average value. Birinyi also points out that the average bull market since 1960 has lasted 1000 trading days.

Okay… so what if the uber-bulls are correct? What if investors are underestimating the power of a busness-led economic recovery, in spite of consumers having a rough go of it?

Well, you might want to overweight sector ETFs that are exceptionally attractive from a P/S standpoint; that is, you might want your current P/S ratio to be below the S&P 500’s SPDR Trust (NYSEARCA:SPY). You might want the sector to have a host of companies with P/S ratios that are below their own 5-year averages; after all, some sectors normally trade at lower P/S than other sectors. And you’d want those same companies to be logging a 20% year-over-year sales (revenue) growth.

A well-crafted screen that also incorporated market cap of at least $75 mil produced 120 stocks in the following 11 sectors:

Sectors With Attractive Price-To-Sales (P/S) Numbers And Revenue Growth
# Of Companies
Financials 35
Health Care 12
Transports 11
Technology 9
Consumer Staples 9
Consumer Discretionary 8
Utilities 8
Telecom 8
Industrials 8
Energy 7
Basic Materials 5
Click to enlarge

In my estimation, there appears to be a fairly normal distribution across segments… with a few possible exceptions. To the extent a Morningstar screen is providing data that we can rely on, financial companies are the sales kings (e.g., insurance, banks, brokerage, etc.). One way to overweight this in your portfolio is with the Select Financials SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLF).

Of course, another way to look at this data is to suggest that financial stocks should not command the P/S ratios that they have in the past, and that a P/S ratio lower than the S&P 500 is warranted today. Indeed, that is a distinct possibility. Either way, financial stocks may have quite a bit of sway in market direction.

Last, but certainly not least, one could make a case that basic materials companies are overvalued; very few made it through the P/S screen, though I would not suggest that 5 companies is a world of difference from 7 or 8.

Disclosure Statement: Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. The company and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs, mutual funds and/or index funds mentioned above. The company does not receive compensation from any of the fund providers covered in this feature. Moreover, the commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities.