Everyone watching recent market activity closely should have noticed three changes in market leadership. First, a change in the precious metals momentum, as gold and silver lost their luster, even in the face of the revival of European sovereign debt woes. SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:GLD) lost close to 1%, while iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV) was virtually flat.
Second, there has been a shift in investor interest from high technology stocks that have powered the market rally since mid-November to defensive sectors like healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Amedisys (NASDAQ:AMED) was up 5 percent, Pfizer, Aetna (NYSE:AET) and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) up 3.5 percent (UNH is trading at a 52-week high) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) was up 2 percent.
Third, there has been a change is within the technology sector, in which investor interest shifted from high-fliers like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN) to laggards like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) that reported better than expected earnings on strong demand across its product lines, and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), which also reported strong earnings on robust demand for its PayPal services.
Five-day Performance (%)
While it isn't yet clear whether this market leadership change is part of a trend or simply an a statistical aberration, it is a stark reminder for investors that market returns converge to the economy's average rate of return. Whenever one sector is overbought, investors flee it for other sectors that are overlooked and underbought. That's why active investors should rebalance their portfolio accordingly.